Governor of Ohio fined in ethics case

Ohio Republican Gov. Bob Taft, the great-grandson of a U.S. president, on Thursday admitted violating ethics laws for not disclosing golf outings and other gifts and was fined $4,000, but avoided jail time.

"I accept full responsibility for this mistake. I am very sorry," Taft said in a statement in Franklin County Municipal Court after pleading no contest to four criminal misdemeanor ethics violations. That plea allowed Judge Mark Froehlich to find him guilty.

He could have faced up to six months in jail on each of the four counts, but a plea agreement reached with prosecutors that Taft signed in court limited his punishment to the fine.

Taft, 63, has previously accepted responsibility for the reporting lapses but insisted again that he would not resign before his second and final term is up in January 2007.

In his long tenure in state government, including two terms as governor and two terms as secretary of state, Taft had developed a reputation for demanding strict adherence to ethics laws by state employees - which made his lapses all the more glaring.

"In this instance, I have failed to meet those high expectations and I am very disappointed in myself," a contrite Taft told reporters after the court proceeding, reports Reuters.

"There are no words to express the deep remorse that I feel over the embarrassment that I have caused for my administration and for the people of the state of Ohio," Taft said after the sentencing. "I offer my sincere and heartfelt apology, and I hope the people will understand that these mistakes, though major and important mistakes, were done unintentionally, and I hope and pray they will accept my apology."

Taft said repeatedly he would not resign. "I will continue to do the job to which I have been elected by the people of the state of Ohio," he said.

Among the golf outings were two from Tom Noe, a prominent Republican fund-raiser and rare coin dealer who is at the heart of a scandal involving the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, which invested approximately $50 million in rare coins through Noe. Investigators later found $10 million to $13 million was missing, sending GOP officials scampering to escape the taint of association with Noe, informs Houston Chronicle.

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