Eaton Township trustee files ethics complaint

February 6, 2010 in Uncategorized

EATON TWP. – Eaton Township trustee Linda Morrison filed a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission about the hiring of former Lorain County Rural Wastewater District board member Doug Edwards as a $20-an-hour inspector overseeing the LORCO project.

Edwards was the township’s representative to the LORCO board when he was hired July 6 as a temporary field inspector with the Avon Lake Utilities Department, which is the construction manager on the LORCO project.

Morrison, who had a contentious relationship with Edwards while the two served as trustees, confirmed that she filed the complaint but said she is prohibited from discussing it. Edwards was defeated when he sought re-election in November.

John Kniepper, Avon Lake’s chief utilities executive, did not respond to calls or e-mails about Edwards’ employment.

David Freel, executive director of the ethics commission, said he is prohibited from discussing any investigation.

But Freel said generally speaking, a public official is prohibited from benefiting financially from projects that he or she has voted to approve.

Approximately 500 complaints to the ethics commission are filed every year, Freel said. In 2008, there were 168 investigations resulting in 32 individuals who were prosecuted, are seeking an appeal or facing a review, he said. Violating ethics laws is a first-degree misdemeanor, he said.

Avon Lake’s Personnel Director George Wintermyer said Edwards was hired as a part-time inspector on the LORCO project by the Board of Municipal Utilities. The board’s chairman, Charles D. Whitmer, did not return phone calls.

Edwards declined to comment Friday, except to say he resigned as the township’s LORCO representative in a Jan. 15 letter. His term as the township’s representative on the LORCO board would have expired March 31.

Edwards referred comment to attorney Dennis O’Toole, who represents LORCO.

O’Toole, however, said he has not spoken with Edwards or anyone else about representing Edwards in the ethics investigation. He also said it would be inappropriate to represent a former LORCO board member when any possible litigation also could include LORCO.

But, O’Toole said, “no one at LORCO has any control over what the city of Avon Lake does.”

Rob Berner, the former mayor of Avon Lake who became LORCO director in November, was unavailable for comment Friday on the ethics complaint.

Meanwhile, Assistant County Prosecutor Gerald Innes, who advises the township trustees, declined comment on Morrison’s ethics complaint against Edwards.

This is not the first time Morrison and Edwards have clashed. The massive sewer project often was at the heart of the problems between the two trustees. Edwards has been a supporter of sewers, while Morrison has been a frequent critic of the LORCO project.

When the sewer lines are hooked up, the waste will be treated at the Avon Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.

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