Thursday, September 27, 2001

Conese indicted in funds scandal

Former Butler elections official faces two charges

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Already ousted from the Butler County Board of Elections because of a campaign-finance scandal, attorney Mark A. Conese now faces criminal charges.

        An indictment issued Wednesday accuses Mr. Conese of two charges: misconduct of an elections board member, and soliciting or receiving improper compensation.

        Neither Mr. Conese nor his attorney, Michael Shanks, returned telephone calls seeking comment.

        If convicted, Mr. Conese could be sentenced to 18 months on the first charge, which is a fourth-degree felony. The second charge is a misdemeanor carrying a six-month sentence and would forbid him from holding “a position of public trust or public office” for seven years, said Butler County Prosecutor Robin Piper.

        Mr. Conese is a former Domestic Relations Court judge.

        The allegations arise from a March 1, 2000, incident in which Brent Dixon, a part-time employee of the elections board, tape-recorded a meeting with Mr. Conese and Donald Daiker, then chairman of the county's Democratic Party. The tape has the two men telling Mr. Dixon that he had to surrender his after-tax salary (about $4,800) to the party in order to keep his job.

        Mr. Daiker has not been charged, but Mr. Piper said his office continues its investigation.

        In March, the Ohio Secretary of State removed Mr. Conese from the elections board.

        Mr. Conese also faces an Oct. 18 hearing before the Ohio Elections Commission. The commission fined Mr. Daiker $1,000.

        “It's unfortunate when you see someone with so much education and legal experience clearly demonstrate conduct that is out-of-bounds and in violation of the law,” Mr. Piper said.

        Mr. Piper assigned the case to Steve Tolbert, a new assistant prosecutor who formerly worked for the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office and therefore was not connected to Butler County officials at the time of the alleged violations.

        Mr. Piper, a Republican, said any member of his staff would handle such a matter impartially, regardless of party affiliation.

        “Politics has no part in it,” he said. “You put that totally aside.”


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