July 29, 2005

Ohio governor’s ex-aide guilty of accepting gifts

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - Ohio Gov. Bob Taft's former
chief of staff was found guilty on Friday of violating ethics
laws by not disclosing gifts from a Republican fund-raiser
embroiled in "Coingate," a scandal over a missing $13 million
in state funds.

Brian Hicks, 40, who became a lobbyist when he left
government two years ago, pleaded no contest and was fined
$1,000 for the misdemeanor ethics violation by Franklin County
Municipal Court Judge Scott VanDerKarr.

Hicks, who could have faced up to six months in jail, did
not disclose two vacations at a luxury Florida Keys home for
which he underpaid fund-raiser and rare coin dealer Tom Noe.

Hicks' former secretary, Cherie Carroll, was also fined
$1,000 for accepting dinners from Noe.

The criminal charges were the first in the developing
scandal -- dubbed Coingate -- focused on Noe.

Noe is a top fund-raiser for several Republican
officeholders including Taft and President Bush, whose victory
in Ohio carried him to re-election in 2004. Investigators are
looking into whether Noe illegally repaid political donors to

He also allegedly mismanaged a $50 million investment in
rare coins. Noe's attorney has said $13 million is missing from
the coin investment, and the state's attorney general has said
Noe took $4 million from the Ohio Bureau of Workers'

Taft is being investigated by a state ethics commission for
accepting golf outings from Noe.