This editorial appeared in the Toledo Blade on Jan. 7. It was distributed by the Associated Press.
Gov. Mike DeWine continues to turn a blind eye to corruption in Ohio government with his appointment of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Mr. Deters takes the seat of Justice Sharon Kennedy, newly elected as chief justice (“Prosecutor, former state treasurer Deters appointed justice,” Dec. 22) and will be on the ballot in 2024 for the rest of the term and 2026 if he seeks re-election to a full six-year term.
Mr. Deters is familiar with resignation from state government as he left office as State Treasurer a year early in 2005 to return to his former position as Hamilton County Prosecutor.
The resignation followed a pay-to-play scandal that brought misdemeanor corruption convictions against Mr. Deters’ chief of staff Matt Borges and campaign fund-raiser Eric Sagun. Mr. Deters’ key aides were convicted of directing a $50,000 campaign contribution from Cleveland investment manager Frank Gruttadaria to the Hamilton County Republican Party, which funneled the money to Mr. Deters’ campaign for treasurer.
When Mr. Gruttadaria was sentenced to seven years in prison for stealing $125 million from his clients, one of the charges against him was bribery to win $5.9 billion in Ohio treasury funds to manage. Mr. Gruttadaria said campaign cash for Mr. Deters was behind his business with the state of Ohio.
Cuyahoga County prosecutors who tried the case against Mr. Borges and Mr. Sagun said they could find no evidence that Mr. Deters was aware of the campaign-finance laundering scheme.
But it was Mr. Deters’ top staff (“Treasurer’s former aide pleads guilty,” July 28, 2004) that made an illegal campaign contribution the starting point for billions of taxpayer dollars to manage.
Mr. Deters not only picked these people, he defended their action, attacking the case against them as political.
And Mr. Deters was solely responsible for the indefensible selection of Mr. Gruttadaria as a manager of Ohio tax dollars.
Mr. Deters is the first of many who helped restore the reputation of Mr. Borges, who ultimately rose to chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. He goes on trial this month, alongside former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, on federal racketeering charges connected to the FirstEnergy bailout.
It was Mr. Borges’ alleged attempt to bribe a consultant working on a ballot issue to repeal House Bill 6 (“Key source in probe of Ohio House speaker identified,” July 23, 2020) that prompted the FBI investigation in the first place.
Tyler Fehrman confirms he is the confidential human source detailed in the criminal affidavit as providing the FBI with a recording of Mr. Borges offering him cash to undercut the repeal effort.
While Mr. Deters was never directly implicated in wrongdoing, in defending Mr. Borges, and assisting his continuation in Ohio politics despite a public corruption conviction, Mr. Deters signaled little regard for government integrity.
In appointing Mr. Deters, Governor DeWine signals that he too is unconcerned about the loss of integrity in Ohio’s political culture.
Friend of corruption is a terrible legacy for a lifetime in politics, but Mr. DeWine has earned that judgment.