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State employees need a harsher punishment

Wouldn’t it be nice if government officials were as conscientious about ethics as they seem to be inventive about trying to skirt the rules?

Ohio Inspector General Randall J. Meyer’s office reported last week that about 40 state employees and some legislators accepted a free charter boat fishing trip on Lake Erie in 2018. Among offenders was former state Department of Natural Resources director James Zehringer.

Charter boat trips such as the one accepted normally cost up to $150. In addition, the DNR held a reception at Geneva State Park prior to the event, paid for lodging for several employees and furnished box lunches for the junket.

State employees and lawmakers are prohibited from accepting gifts of substantial value. Some argued that the charter trip actually was a donation to the DNR, not them.

Though convenient, that excuse smells worse than a pile of week-old walleye.

And speaking of behavior that stinks, one of the charter captains told investigators that state Rep. John Patterson, D-Ashtabula, told him “… you know this will be gratis but with tips.” The captain says he received only a small tip that was not sufficient even to cover his fuel costs for the trip.

All involved ought to be punished, and not just with slaps on the wrist. They knew what they were doing was wrong.

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