7 local government officials across Ohio reprimanded for violating Ohio ethics law in 2023

Every year, the Dayton Daily News uses Ohio public records laws to obtain settlement agreements from the Ohio Ethics Commission.

These agreements often include “public reprimands” for public officials found to have violated Ohio ethics law. But the agreements aren’t publicized or posted anywhere by the state agency.

2022 settlement agreements: 9 state, local officials reprimanded for violating state ethics law in 2022

2021 settlement agreements: Yellow Springs planning commissioner among 9 cited for ethics violations in 2021

This year, the ethics commission is marking its 50th year enforcing Ohio ethics law. We recently reported that the commission started the year with 103 open ethics investigations statewide, according to its annual report released this month. This includes 11 cases in our area — six in Butler County alone.

High profile cases in recent years include the conviction of Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds on a felony count of unlawful interest in a public contract; the commission was also involved in investigating the House Bill 6 scandal.

Below is a summary of the Ohio Ethics Commission settlements from 2023:

Upper Arlington

Upper Arlington Police Chief Steve Farmer was reprimanded by the ethics commission for violating state ethics law in his involvement in hiring his son for a temporary seasonal job with Safety Town, according to a settlement agreement. Farmer accepted a reprimand, paid back the $1,329 his son was paid for the job and agreed to attend training on nepotism.

Heather Galli, a sergeant with the Upper Arlington Police Department, violated Ohio ethics law in her involvement in getting her daughter a seasonal job at Safety Town, according to a settlement agreement. Galli accepted a reprimand, reimbursed the city the $2,694 her daughter was paid through the program and agreed to take a course on nepotism.

Lake County

Lake County Commissioner John Plecnik used his county computer and office to teach an online class and perform other duties related to his work at law schools at Cleveland State University and North Carolina Central University, according to a settlement agreement. The agreement says Plecnik violated Ohio ethics law, and he accepts a reprimand and agrees to take ethics training. The settlement notes that Plecnik self-reported the potential violation through a letter from his attorney.

Village of Wintersville

Arthur Fowler, police chief of the village of Wintersville in Jefferson County, violated Ohio ethics law by using his personal company to install security cameras and other equipment in the police station, according to a settlement agreement. He also improperly redeemed fuel points from filling up police cruisers for gift cards, the settlement says. Fowler accepted a reprimand, agreed to pay back the village the $300 he charged for labor to install the equipment, and no longer works as police chief.

Local governments in Trumbull County

Michelle Garman, a school board member at Mathews Local School District and zoning secretary for Vienna Twp. in Trumbull County, violated state ethics law when she voted to approve a school resource officer contract between the district and her employer, according to a settlement agreement. Garman accepted a public reprimand and agreed to take ethics training.

Ohio Department of Public Safety

Christopher Lee, an administrative officer with the Ohio Department of Public Safety, violated Ohio ethics law when he received a discount from Sherwin Williams, an ODPS vendor, for paint for his home, according to a settlement agreement. Lee accepted a reprimand and agreed to take ethics training.

Park district in Belmont County

Jack McKeever Sr., president of a park district in Belmont County, violated state ethics law when the park district entered into a contract with a business owned by McKeever, his wife and son, according to a settlement agreement. McKeever stepped down from the board and accepted a reprimand.

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