8 Ohio ethics issues, corruption probes you should know about

Ethics laws in Ohio, which date to the Watergate scandal, exist to hold those in government accountable. All told, Ohio’s law covers 590,000 people, including 10,300 key officials who must file annual financial disclosure statements.

An investigation by this news organization -- publishing this week on our website and in print -- found plenty of loopholes in the Ohio law. Here are some notable ethics issues and public corruption cases in Ohio.

Chris Widener

The Springfield Republican, a long-time advocate for Central State University, was given a $6,000-a-month consulting contract with the university in February 2016, a day after he stepped down from the Ohio Senate.

Ethics laws do not prohibit a sitting lawmaker from seeking a job with a state agency or university as long as they don’t use their position to influence their hiring.

» RELATED: Lawmaker lands contract at CSU

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Wright State University

The university suspended payments to economic development consultant Ron Wine after this news organization revealed that the university had paid him nearly $2 million since 2009, including almost $1 million in 2014 – a year in which there was no written contract.

Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger was angry when it came to light that Wine advised WSU President David Hopkins to offer to hold a fundraiser when talking to Rosenberger about securing state funding.

The Joint Legislative Ethics Committee and Ohio Attorney General concluded there was no pay-to-play or lobbying law violations. However, the Ohio Inspector General said his office is still investigating.

» RELATED: Wright State contract suspended pending probe

Amer Ahmad

The former deputy treasurer, who served in the Boyce and Cordray administrations from May 2008 to December 2010, pleaded guilty to bribery, wire fraud and money laundering charges in U.S. District Court in December 2013.

Ahmad steered state treasury trading work worth $3.2 million in fees to his high school buddy, who in turn kicked back $523,000. Before sentencing, Ahmad fled the country in April 2014 to Pakistan, where authorities intercepted and held him.

He returned to the U.S. in August 2015 and is now in federal prison.

» RELATED: Feds bring ex-deputy Ohio treasurer Amer Ahmad back from Pakistan

» RELATED: How Ohio deputy treasurer pulled off biggest bribery scheme in history

Ohio State University

Two university leaders had run-ins with the Ohio Ethics Commission. In December 2014, the commission settled an investigation involving U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley, who served as both a trustee and a paid adjunct law professor at Ohio State University. Marbley agreed to resign from the OSU Board of Trustees and teach law school classes at no charge for two semesters.

» RELATED: Federal judge to resign from OSU Board of Trustees

» RELATED: OSU trustee faces ethics investigation

OSU President E. Gordon Gee avoided sanctions in August 2012 when the Ohio Ethics Commission determined that his omission of more than $100,000 in unreported travel expenses from his financial disclosure statement was inadvertent. He abruptly announced his retirement in June 2013 after a series of gaffes.

» RELATED: Gee's gaffes took toll on board

» RELATED: OSU’s Gee updates ethics report: $1 million in travel disclosed

» RELATED: OSU president expenses in the millions

Clayton Luckie

Credit: Chris Stewart

Credit: Chris Stewart

In January 2013, the Dayton Democrat pleaded guilty to eight felony counts and an ethics charge and was sentenced to three years in prison. Federal investigators found that Luckie diverted some $130,000 from his campaign accounts for personal use, cash withdrawals and retail purchases.

» RELATED: Ex-State Rep. Luckie going to prison

» RELATED: Luckie conviction latest in growing FBI crackdown on corruption

Marc Dann

Youngstown-area Democrat Marc Dann stepped down as Ohio attorney general in May 2008 after a series of missteps and scandals. He got dinged for buying a fancy SUV from a campaign contributor, spending more than $140,000 on security for himself and his family, hiring close friends, and an internal investigation that substantiated sexual harassment complaints by two junior employees.

Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation

In April 2005, The (Toledo) Blade broke stories on an ethics and investment scandal at the BWC and the governor’s office that eventually led to 19 criminal convictions and an overhaul of how the bureau oversees its investments.

» RELATED: BWC on solid footing after scandals

Public pension systems

Lawmakers revamped how Ohio’s five public retirement systems are governed and placed annual limits on travel by pension trustees in 2004.

An investigation by this news organization in September 2003 found that the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund trustees spent $612,451 on travel and expenses between 1998 and mid-2003.

That report triggered an Ohio Ethics Commission investigation, which found four pension vendors gave more than $200,000 in meals, entertainment, golf and travel to Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund trustees, staff, family members and friends between 1998 and 2003. Two trustees were convicted of criminal charges. Similar problems were found at the State Teachers Retirement System as well.

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