McCloskey adjusting to life outside prisonWritten by Justin R. Kalmes | | email@example.com
A familiar smile greets customers at the meat counter inside the Toledo Food Market. The man wearing the grin is on a first-name basis with most of the patrons who enter the small grocery store on the city’s east side.
He’s simply known as Bob to them, but for more than a decade they called him Councilman McCloskey.
Such is the homecoming for Robert McCloskey, the former Toledo City councilman who pleaded guilty in July 2006 to accepting bribes in March and April of that year from a businessman cooperating with the FBI. After serving about 20 months of his 27-month sentence, the 62-year-old returned to Toledo in early May from a federal prison camp in Ashland, Ky., an experience he called “humbling.”
“I went from being a Toledo City councilman to being a federal prisoner,” McCloskey said. “It lets you know there’s only one person in charge, and that’s Jesus Christ. I think maybe Jesus’ plan was to show me what’s most important — family.”
McCloskey, who said he expects to be released from a Toledo halfway house by summer’s end, was required to gain employment as part of his early release. To make that happen, he turned to the district he represented for 12 years.
The owners of the market offered to make him a greeter, he said, but McCloskey told them he wanted “real” work, so behind the meat counter is where he was placed. Since his return to Toledo, he has worked a six-hour shift every day.
Though he described his incarceration as “one of the worst times in my life” and “very depressing,” McCloskey said he reflects more on the positives that resulted from his conviction. A smoker since he was a teenager, he gave up the habit and hasn’t had a cigarette in more than 20 months. He lost 30 pounds in prison and read the Bible four times. He also took a horticulture class through the University of Kentucky and a keyboarding course.
“I had an opportunity to do things I never would’ve done had I not gone in,” McCloskey said.
While at Ashland, McCloskey worked as a driver, taking people to the airport, hospital and other medical appointments. He was unsupervised while working, he said.
“It made me feel good,” McCloskey said. “They just don’t give anybody the keys to their van.”
McCloskey didn’t lose touch with the Toledo area while in prison. He received hundreds of letters from people throughout the community during his time in Ashland, and his wife, Barbara, whom he’s been married to for 40 years, made the six-and-a-half-hour drive from Toledo regularly. Their marriage, he said, is stronger than ever.
“I give her a kiss every day to tell her how much I love her,” McCloskey said. “That’s humbling.”
McCloskey said he’s still bitten by the political bug, but he’s unsure whether he’s eligible to hold public office because of his felony conviction. Even if he could run for council again, he said he doubts that would happen.
“Only if I wanted a divorce. My wife says she doesn’t want to share me with anyone,” he said.
Felons could hold public office in Ohio once released from the Ohio Parole Board’s authority until Gov. Ted Strickland signed into law May13 a bill that basically forbids them from doing so, said Jim Gravelle, spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General’s office.
Financially devastated by his crimes, McCloskey said he and his wife would have to work hard to replace the retirement savings lost during the past two years. But his top priority is earning a chance to return home.
“I paid my time; it’s over,” he said. “Now I just have to prevent myself from getting in a situation where it could happen again.”