Saturday, June 30, 2001

Butler elections inquiry proceeds

One fined $1,000; two face possible grand jury action

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — The case of three former Butler County Board of Elections employees, accused of improprieties in political party fund-raising, has led to a fine for one man and possible grand jury action against the other two.

        The Ohio Elections Commission has levied a $1,000 fine against Philip O. Morrical Jr., a former special assistant to the elections board, for using someone else's name when he made contributions to the county's Democratic Party.

        Doing so is a violation of Ohio elections law, said commission spokeswoman Debbie Cole, but the commission decided not to refer the case against Mr. Morrical for prosecution. His attorney, Michael Miller, did not return a telephone call Friday.

        The allegation against Mr. Morrical surfaced as a result of last year's Ohio Secretary of State inquiry of allegations that Donald Daiker and Mark Conese, then board of elections members and top Democratic Party leaders, had coerced another special assistant, Brent Dixon, to surrender most of his county salary to the party.

        As the elections commission plans to hold hearings on Mr. Conese and Mr. Daiker, a Butler County assistant prosecutor is preparing to send the case to a grand jury, Prosecutor Robin Piper said Friday.

        Mr. Piper said negotiations with the men's lawyers have been unproductive, and the case has been referred to Steve Tolbert, a new assistant prosecutor who formerly worked for the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office and therefore had no ties to the Butler County officials at the time of the alleged violations.

        Mr. Daiker resigned from the board of elections; the Ohio Secretary of State removed Mr. Conese.


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