A Mason city councilmember, Clark County development director and state board of education vice president are among nine state and local officials reprimanded by the Ohio Ethics Commission in 2022 for violating state ethics law, a Dayton Daily News investigation found.
The ethics commission enters into settlement agreements with public officials across Ohio — usually as reprimands in lieu of prosecution — for violating state ethics laws. The agency doesn’t post them online. The Dayton Daily News, using Ohio public records law, obtains the agreements every year.
In 2021, Mason City Councilman Ashley Chance was investigated by the Ohio Ethics Commission after an allegation was made that he failed to disclose his ownership interest in properties and a business in Ohio on his annual personal Financial Disclosure Statements.
The ethics commission found Chance failed to properly disclose his ownership interests in real property and the names of all the businesses he owns, operated, or was an agent for on his Financial Disclosure Statements in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, according to the settlement agreement, signed in January 2022.
The commission cited as mitigating factors that Chance was cooperative with the investigation and disclosed some, but not all, of his business relationships.
Chance told the Dayton Daily News, “I made a mistake. I corrected the mistake. It wasn’t intentional or malicious. I didn’t know I made a mistake.”
He said the staff at the state ethics commission were “awesome and easy to work with. They were extremely helpful and guided me in the right direction. I fixed it and it was resolved in 27 minutes.”
Chance accepted a reprimand from the commission and agreed to correct those Financial Disclosure Statements for those years by filing addenda to reflect all of his income from his business interests; names of businesses; business investments greater than $1,000; and offices/fiduciary relationships within 30 days of signing the settlement agreement.
The commission closed its review of this matter in lieu of any referral of this matter for prosecution.
Chance was first appointed to Mason City Council in September 2015 and later elected to his current position as a member of city council in 2017 and re-elected in 2021.
Other ethics violations
Former Clark County Development Director Thomas Hale was reprimanded by the commission after violating ethics law by providing services to a Madison County village with whom he was seeking employment while he was still working as a Clark County employee.
After Hale left the position for a role in a different community, the Clark County Commission filed a complaint regarding him to the Ohio Ethics Commission, which last summer completed its investigation of Hale and his relationship with West Jefferson.
The investigation found that Hale violated conflict of interest provisions in the Ohio Revised Code when he served as the director of community and economic development in Clark County, applied for employment with the Village of West Jefferson as its building, zoning and planning director and continued to participate in matters regarding West Jefferson as a Clark County employee.
Hale agreed to accept the reprimand from the Ohio Ethics Commission in lieu of the case being forwarded to a prosecutor, according to the settlement agreement. No criminal charges have been filed against Hale.
Last year also saw the former state superintendent of public instruction settling with the Ohio Ethics Commission after being accused of ethics violations when he became the state superintendent in May.
Steve Dackin, who resigned as state superintendent in early June, was accused of speaking with an Ohio Department of Education employee about the possibility of becoming the next state superintendent before he submitted his resignation from the Ohio State Board of Education.
Since Dackin voluntarily resigned from his position and forfeited the public money he made during his time as state superintendent, the ethics commission chose not to prosecute him.
Dackin also agreed to attend three hours of ethics training and can’t apply for the state superintendent position again until February.
Dackin’s appointment to state superintendent was controversial because he was initially the leader of the search process to find the next state superintendent. The state board of education chose him as state superintendent in a 14-4 vote last May.
Also reprimanded last year by the Ohio Ethics Commission were:
- A village of North Kingsville council member who approved payments to a business owned by him and when village council also approved payments to a second business owned by him he participated in those matters.
- An Athens County Board of Elections director who hired and supervised her husband and her brother as employees of the board of elections.
- A Canal Winchester council member who did not disclose his positions as Destination Canal Winchester (DCW) board president and the Canal Winchester Labor Day Festival (LDF) vice president when he voted to approve a city budget for three fiscal years, all of which included funding for both groups from the city’s collection of the bed tax.
- A Canal Winchester council member who voted to approve the city budget though the budget included funding for both DCW and the Canal Winchester LDF and he contracted with both entities to provide deejay services through his outside business.
- A former Ohio Penal Industries Building Construction Specialist at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections who authorized public contracts with a motor vehicle dealer where his son was employed as the service manager to perform vehicle maintenance and repair work on state vehicles.
- A former city of Massillon council member involved in the city contract with her business, and who participated in matters as a council member that affected that business. She also did not properly disclose the business on her financial disclosure statement.
READ THE ETHICS COMMISSION SETTLMENTS BELOW
This story includes reporting by staff writers Eileen McClory and Sydney Dawes.
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