Local elections official will be criminally charged, calls action ‘inadvertent’

Ian Ridgeway resigned from the Miami County Board of Elections; investigation report says issue was about purchasing, not votes

TROY — The former deputy director of the Miami County Board of Elections, who was investigated for alleged fraud involving procurement of office supplies, said Thursday he “inadvertently violated the law” and would be held accountable for his “error in judgment.”

“While I did not intend to engage in any activity that was inappropriate or illegal, I recognize that I have inadvertently violated the law,” Ian Ridgeway of West Milton wrote in a statement provided by his attorney, Jeremy Tomb of Troy.

“It is important for me to mention that I did not improperly receive or misappropriate any public funds. I simply did not report them appropriately,” Ridgeway wrote.

He was put on paid administrative leave in early August by the elections board after Sheriff Dave Duchak notified the board a complaint had been received about questionable procurement practices.

The sheriff’s office has completed the investigation, and Prosecutor Tony Kendell said a criminal charge is pending. Ridgeway acknowledged that in his statement, writing, “I understand that criminal charges will be issued, and I will be held accountable for my error in judgment.”

A date for a court hearing was not yet available.

The board of elections on Oct. 27 accepted a separation agreement with Ridgeway that includes his resignation effective Oct. 13.

The report filed by sheriff’s investigators and obtained this week stated the complaint came from the county auditor’s office and involved allegations of forgery and tampering with records.

Ridgeway, who had been employed at the elections office since fall 2018, was responsible for obtaining purchase orders, receiving invoices and making sure all bills were paid, according to the investigation report.

The allegation focused on a document submitted to the auditor’s office in July as an invoice that appeared to be altered “as it was completely different from any other invoice from that company,” the report said. “That invoice had been sent to the Auditor’s Office by Deputy Director of the Miami County Board of Elections, Ian Ridgeway, with a request for a purchase order to pay for the purchased goods.”

The “invoice” was for items purchased from a local business in the spring. A representative of the business told investigators the “invoice” did not come from the business. Investigators said an evaluation of Ridgeway’s computer and IT records showed efforts to copy and convert documents with copies of both the original and fraudulent invoices found in files.

“This officer believes that Ridgeway spent nearly four hours researching and attempting to manipulate the original invoices in a way that would allow him to alter the invoice dates from March and April of 2023 to July of 2023. His attempt was unsuccessful, and it appears that he utilized an invoice template to create a fraudulent invoice instead. That invoice was subsequently sent to the Auditor’s Office,” the report stated.

Investigators said they were told by elections Director Laura Bruns that late payment of bills had been an ongoing problem with Ridgeway. “She stated that she was aware of the problem, but was not aware that the problem was as bad as she has recently learned,” investigators wrote.

This news organization requested to review Ridgeway’s personnel file, but it was under review by prosecutors before being released.

Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com

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