Although he has been all but barred from voting on state matters, embattled Ohio Rep. Clayton Luckie continues to receive a paycheck as he waits out his final months in office.
The Ohio House of Representatives reconvened on Wednesday, but Luckie (D-Dayton) didn’t attend, making it the fourth straight session he has missed. Luckie was indicted last month on 49 criminal counts accusing him of raiding $130,000 from his campaign account and spending it at places such as casinos, and furniture, jewelry and clothing stores.
Luckie, who declined to comment for this story when reached by phone, has been a no-show at state functions since July 9, when he last attended a bi-monthly meeting of the state controlling board. Since then, Luckie has been paid just over $21,000. He is slated to receive another $11,000 in salary before he leaves office at the end of the year, when his term will expire.
Luckie agreed after July 9 to stop attending controlling board meetings while his attorney negotiated with FBI agents and prosecutors, who unsucessfully sought Luckie’s resignation.
Catherine Turcer with Common Cause Ohio, a left-leaning public policy group, said Luckie should step down, both to save face and to allow someone to replace him who can vote on the important issues the legislature will deal with before the end of the year.
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“I’m just shocked that he hasn’t resigned, which just suggests that, hey I need a paycheck,” Turcer said. “And it’s sad. Taxpayer money shouldn’t be a gravy train.”
Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder, R-Medina, said Wednesday he supports removing Luckie from office if he won’t step down, according to Batchelder spokesman Mike Dittoe. That would require the votes of 66 of the house’s 100 members. Batchelder and Democratic leaders both called for Luckie to resign last month.
“The speaker indicated if he was the only person who had decision-making authority on this, he would take action,” Dittoe said. “But he would like to see what the will is of both (fellow Republicans and Democrat house members) moving forward.”
Batchelder added, according to Dittoe: “This activity has reflected extremely poorly on the House of Representatives as an institution, and, quite frankly, it’s embarrassing.”
Keary McCarthy, a spokesman for House Democrat leader Armond Budish, didn’t answer directly when asked if Democrats would support an effort to remove Luckie from office. Such a move would mathematically require the votes of at least six Democrats.
“We’re hopeful that Mr. Luckie will take the appropriate steps to resign his seat and avoid that potential outcome,” McCarthy said.
If Luckie does leave office early, Democrats would have to find someone to serve as a placeholder until the end of the year. That person could not be Fred Strahorn, a former state senator who last month was elected to fill Luckie’s seat. That’s because term limit rules require Strahorn, who completed a fourth two-year term as a state representative in 2009, to wait four years — or until January 2013 — before returning to that office.
Asked about what he thought Luckie should do, Strahorn, a Democrat, said the ball is in Luckie’s court.
“It’s really tough. He hasn’t been convicted of anything … only he knows what’s in his best interest, and I trust his ability to judge what that is,” Strahorn said.
That sentiment was echoed by State Rep. Ross McGregor, R-Springfield.
“I believe that Rep. Luckie should let his conscience guide him on what is best to protect the honesty and integrity of this institution,” McGregor said.
Even if he’s not voting, Luckie continues to represent the people of his district, said Charisse Burgess, Luckie’s legislative aide. Burgess answered the phone in Luckie’s Columbus office Wednesday morning, and said just a few minutes earlier she helped refer a caller seeking a state grant to the correct agency.
She said Luckie also continues to schedule meetings in Dayton with constituents.
“He’s not here to vote today, but there’s still work we have to do in the district,” Burgess said.
Luckie has pleaded not guilty to the charges he faces. Luckie’s attorney, Lloyd Pierre-Louis, filed paperwork in Franklin County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday seeking to have 30 of the 49 charges against Luckie dismissed on a variety of technical grounds.
Luckie is scheduled to face trial on Dec. 20 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.