Thursday, April 04, 2002

Panel to study officials' ties to party

By John McCarthy
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — The Ohio Ethics Commission will review the relationship between public officeholders and their political parties that receive money from vendors doing state business with those offices, commission director David Freel said Wednesday.

        The commission asked its staff to review ethics laws and procedures following news reports that Frank Gruttadauria, a Cleveland-area broker charged in an alleged investment scam, had made contributions to the Hamilton County Republican Party, Mr. Freel said. The party in turn contributed to the re-election campaign of state Treasurer Joseph Deters, a former chairman of the county party, the reports said. Mr. Freel said the commission is not investigating Mr. Deters or his campaign.

        Mr. Gruttadauria is being held on a charge of making false statements to a financial institution, and the Securities and Exchange Commission has filed securities fraud charges against him.

        The reports said he contributed the money to the county party's operating fund, which under law does not have to disclose contributors or the amount of their donations. Mr. Deters' campaign has said that Mr. Gruttadauria's donations were not connected to money the campaign accepted from the county party.

        Firms that Mr. Gruttadauria worked for did millions of dollars in business with Mr. Deters' office, although Mr. Deters has said the deals were profitable for the state. Neither Mr. Deters nor the companies Mr. Gruttadauria has worked for have been charged with any wrongdoing.

        The decision to review ethics laws came out of discussions among the commissioners, who want a clearer picture of elected officials' relationships with their political parties, Mr. Freel said.

        “This isn't specifically about Deters or Deters' campaign. We're looking at where the ethics law comes into the intersection of serving in these dual roles,” Mr. Freel said.

        Mr. Deters' campaign will comply with any requests the commission makes, spokeswoman Lisa Peterson said.

        “We've got nothing to hide. They can look at anything they want,” she said.

        Democrat Mary Boyle, Mr. Deters' likely opponent in the Nov. 5 election, said she doesn't expect the commission to find anything wrong with the current system. A better idea would be for the Legislature to require full disclosure of all contributions, she said.


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