Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Norwood trip brings complaint

BY Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NORWOOD — Mayor Joe Hochbein, already the subject of a Hamilton County sheriff's investigation being reviewed by two special prosecutors, also is accused of violating Ohio's ethics laws, The Cincinnati Enquirer learned Monday.

        The mayor is named — along with three other city officials — in an “allegation form” to the Ohio Ethics Commission, requesting an investigation.

        The form, obtained by the Enquirer, does not name the person who filed the complaint.

        The complaint alleges that during the first half of 1999 the mayor, along with Service Director Gary Hubbard, Ward 5 Councilwoman Tina Adams, and then Councilman-at-Large Cliff Miller, flew to Birmingham, Ala., at the expense of developer Jeffrey R. Anderson, who is completing the upscale Rookwood Commons development. Mr. Miller now is the city's safety director.

        The ethics filing notes that Mr. Anderson contributed $27,000 to the mayor's re-election campaign.

        Jennifer Hardin, chief advisory attorney for the ethics commission in Columbus, said all allegations to the commission and investigations are confidential. She said the commission is prohibited by law from disclosing an investigation, its status or results.

        Ms. Hardin said the commission generally reviews formal allegations to determine if there is justification to assign an investigator. Following any investigation, a hearing is held and any findings are forwarded to the county prosecutor or city law director for possible ac tion.

        Mr. Hochbein said he flew with the three others in a private jet from Lunken Airport to Birmingham at the invitation and encouragement of Mr. Anderson, to view a development similar to Rookwood Commons.

        However, the mayor said he sees no ethics violation in taking the trip because Mr. Anderson already had been named developer for the project.

        “He (Mr. Anderson) wanted to give Norwood the opportunity for input (into the planned development) ... and thought it was important that we go. I, in fact, resisted. It was a day out of my work schedule at a busy time,” Mr. Hochbein said.

Other probe
        Sheriff's investigators have concluded an investigation into the use of public employees at the Norwood Car Show. A $150 check from the car show was later sent to Victory 2000, a campaign committee for the Norwood Republican Party.

        The request for an investigation refers to two sections of Ohio ethics law. One section states: “No public official or employee shall solicit or accept anything of value that is of such a character as to manifest a substantial influence upon the public official or employee with respect to that person's duties.”

        The other section states, in part, that a public official may accept travel, meals, lodging or expenses or reimbursement as part of official duties so long as it “is not of such a character as to manifest a substantial and improper influence upon the public official or employee with respect to that person's duties.”


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