Saturday, October 31, 2009

BUTLER COUNTY UPDATE: Special Prosecutor Edition

To fully understand where we are, we have to examine where we've been so let's all jump in to the Way Back Machine for a little trip back to 2007 for a recap of the Mosketti Incident.

Carole Mosketti was the County Treasurer. She hired her granddaughter in clear violation of the state anti-nepotism laws. To tell that story, let's go to the press release from the Ohio Ethics Commission:
Butler County Treasurer Carole B. Mosketti entered a guilty plea on May 17, 2007, to a Bill of Information filed by Special Prosecutor Lynn Grimshaw in Butler County Common Pleas Court, alleging a conflict of interest in hiring her family member. As a result of an Ethics Commission investigation, Mosketti admitted that she unlawfully used her authority as Treasurer to hire her granddaughter, Heather Maus, as a part-time employee at the Butler County Treasurer's Office from December 21, 2004, and continuing until June 7, 2007, and paying her $3,800.

Judge Matthew Crehan sentenced Mosketti to pay the maximum fine of $1000 and also court costs. As part of the plea agreement with the Special Prosecutor, Mosketti also agreed to resign from office effective May 31, 2007. She had previously made full restitution to the County of $4,166.76, which was the total amount that the County paid Maus. (Maus worked at the County Records Center just prior to being hired by Mosketti.) Maus resigned from the Treasurer's Office on June 7, 2006.
Okay, so what's this bit about a Special Prosecutor? We read on...
Butler County Prosecutor Robin Piper requested on June 19, 2007 that the Commission investigate whether Mosketti violated the ethics law by hiring her granddaughter as a part-time employee, based upon information received by his office from the County Auditor. On October 27, 2006, Piper requested that the Butler County Common Pleas Court appoint Lynn Grimshaw as a Special Prosecutor and Paul M. Nick, the Commission's Chief Investigative Attorney, as an Assistant Special Prosecutor, to prosecute any felony or misdemeanor charges based upon the Commission's investigation. The charges filed today are the result of negotiations between the Special Prosecutor and Mosketti's counsel, Jack Garretson.


The ethics conflict of interest charge is first degree misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum penalty of up to a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail. The Ethics Law protects the public from improper conflicts of interest by prohibiting public officials and employees from misusing their public positions or participating in actions to benefit family members, themselves, or their private business.
So what does this have to do with our current situation? Let's not forget what got us in to this mess in the first place. Commissioner Jolivette has been accused of hiring family members for part-time jobs with the county.

The question is: Why hasn't Robin Piper asked for a Special Prosecutor?

The legal answer is: Jolivette didn't do what Mosketti did.

The political answer is: Leaving Jolivette in the race so he can get thumped strengthens the position of those who want to control the budget.

Let's break that down starting with the legal answer.

We need to bring in the Ohio Ethics Commissions document (PDF) on the subject, specifically Section IV, paragraphs 3 and 4:
An official has “authorized” the employment of a family member when the employment could not have been awarded without the approval of the official. In other words, under this section, an official is prohibited from making the final decision about whether a family member should be hired. For example, an official is prohibited from voting to hire a family member.

If the official makes the final hiring decisions for the public agency she serves, her family members cannot be employed by the public agency. For example, a county office holder cannot hire a family member and cannot delegate the authority to hire her family members to a subordinate employee, which means that her family members cannot be hired by her office. However, a person who worked in the office before her relative is elected is not prohibited from continuing to work for the office, as long as the terms and conditions of her employment are not changed through promotion or other actions described below.
The distinction is that Jolivette was one of three people making the decision in which his vote didn't actually decide whether or not his kids would get hired. Mosketti was the sole voice in the decision to hire her grandchild.

Has Jolivette violated the spirit of the law? I think so, but I don't think he did so intentionally. Having seen with my own eyes how the agendas were laid out back in the day, it is very easy for a Commissioner to not know who specifically was being hired on a particular vote. The agenda process has since been updated to include the names of those effected by the vote, but at the time only the department or agency was listed.

There are other reasons for not supporting Jolivette for re-election but I don't believe this is one of them.

Now, the political reasons for not appointing a Special Prosecutor...

By keeping Jolivette politically viable heading in to endorsements and the primary helps Robin's Good Ole Boys Club. They need to strengthen their position by soundly defeating Jolivette. What this does is give the Club a dude that they can point to and say, "We eliminated corruption." Never mind the fact that Jolivette hadn't actually violated the law.

Plus, this is a numbers game. Keeping Jolivette around does two things: it keeps the number required to come out on top lower; and, it supposedly keeps the Hamilton people from aligning with other candidates.


I'm not a lawyer, and I don't play one on the internet. My analysis is based on having read the documentation and reading the stories of the allegations. That's it. There may be more or less information regarding the Jolivette Situation that I am not privy to at this time.

And, I am not afraid to be has happened before and it will probably happen again. That's why I encourage folks to make up their own minds once they have the facts in hand. We need to start asking questions and seeing what answers we receive.