COLUMBUS, Ohio – A state office that monitors lawyer behavior recommended Monday that Gov. Bob Taft be disciplined for failing to report golf outings and other gifts while in office.
Taft pleaded no contest in August to the ethics violations and was fined $4,000. He was the first Ohio governor to be charged with a crime while in office.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel, an arm of the state Supreme Court, said Monday that Taft also violated Ohio's code of professional conduct for lawyers, which states that a lawyer shall not "engage in any other conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer's fitness to practice law."
The final decision on punishment ultimately lies with the Supreme Court. Taft could face a penalty ranging from a reprimand to loss of his license to practice law, or the court could decide no penalty is warranted.
The charges against Taft and the recommendation Monday stemmed from the governor's failure to report 52 gifts worth nearly $6,000 that he received over four years while in office. The case had spiraled off a scandal over state losses from investments in rare coins.
"The governor is hopeful that the disciplinary panel will consider that his failure to report gifts was unintentional and that he self-reported it to the (Ohio) Ethics Commission as soon as he became aware of it," Taft spokesman Mark Rickel said.
Ohio Disciplinary Counsel Jonathan Coughlan said Taft could file evidence or request a hearing before a three-member panel of the Supreme Court's Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline. The 28-member commission of mostly lawyers and judges would then review the case and recommend an action to the Supreme Court.
Coughlan said he couldn't comment on how Taft's case came to his office's attention, but he added, "we read the newspapers." The office takes action when it receives a formal complaint or if it becomes aware of a possible violation.
Taft, a great-grandson of President Taft, never considered resigning. The Republican, in his final year as governor, has been a lawyer since 1976. His license has been inactive since 2002.