June 24, 2016


Allegations against auditor investigated

An investigation into allegations the county auditor misused office materials and resources is in the hands of a special prosecutor.

County Auditor Mike Kovack is accused of using office materials like copy machines to campaign for the Nov. 4 election, county sheriff’s Capt. Kenneth Baca said.

Kovack, a Democrat who’s served as county auditor since 1993, is running against Medina Finance Director Keith Dirham, a Republican.

Kovack, who said he requested an investigation this spring, issued a statement regarding the allegations.

Mike Kovack

Mike Kovack

“These allegations were made by an employee upset with the office in March,” he said. “At that time we made arrangements to have all allegations reviewed. I am hopeful all allegations will be found to be without merit.”

Kovack said the person who made the allegations is still employed at the office.

He declined to comment further.

Baca said detectives were asked to investigate in April. He said the results of the investigation were transferred to Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter, who was appointed special prosecutor.

“While it’s pretty wrapped up and it’s been sent over to the special prosecutor,” Baca said, “that doesn’t mean Mr. Baxter can’t come back and ask for us to look into it more or for us to interview somebody else.”

It will be up to Baxter whether the investigation merits criminal charges, Baca said.

County commissioners, however, apparently weren’t aware of the investigation and in a letter on Tuesday asked the county prosecutor look into the allegations.

In the letter to Medina County Prosecutor Dean Holman, Commissioners Pat Geissman, Steve Hambley and Adam Friedrick, all Republicans, provided documents they received detailing the allegations.

“The board feels very strongly that it has the duty and obligation, on behalf of our residents and taxpayers, to bring this issue to your immediate attention,” the letter reads.

Copies of the letter and documents were sent to the Medina County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio Ethics Commission and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

The Medina County Prosecutor’s Office has refused to release the accusatory documents because they are protected under public records law, county Assistant Prosecutor Brian Richter said.

Commissioners said they opted to turn the allegations over after they received the documents from Kovack’s employee.

“I was unaware of any investigation that was going on,” Hambley said. “The commissioners are not an investigative body, and it looked like somebody ought to look into it.”

Friedrick concurred.

“As elected officials, we’re responsible to the taxpayers. We’re called to be faithful stewards,” he said. “If we see something that doesn’t look right, we’ve got a duty to have it looked into.”

Geissman could not be reached for comment.

The allegations mark the second in as many years that a public official has been accused by an employee of misusing public materials.

In September, county Clerk of Courts David Wadsworth pleaded no contest in Medina Municipal Court to a misdemeanor charge of misusing public funds. He was placed in a first-offender program and his charge will be dismissed upon successfully completing the program.

Wadsworth, a Republican, also was sued in federal court by the employee, former Chief Deputy Clerk Julie Kauffman, who accused Wadsworth of violating her First Amendment right to free speech by firing her in retaliation for turning him in. That lawsuit has been settled out of court.

According to the lawsuit, Kauffman said she told the prosecutor Wadsworth had used clerk’s office materials in his 2012 election campaign, pressured his workers to vote for him, kept a map of his campaign yard signs in his office, and filmed a political advertisement in the clerk’s office.

Commissioners on Thursday said they never got involved in Wadsworth’s case because Kauffman never directly sent them documents related to the case like Kovack’s employee did.

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com. Follow him on Twitter @ngfalcon.

Nick Glunt About Nick Glunt

Nick Glunt primarily covers courts and crime in Medina County. He served The Gazette from September 2012 to December 2015. Contact him at (330) 721-4048 or via email at nglunt@medina-gazette.com.