June 29, 2016

Intermittent clouds

No wrongdoing found so far in probe of allegations against auditor

A special prosecutor said he’s not found evidence to support allegations that Medina County Auditor Mike Kovack used resources of his office in his re-election campaign, but stressed he’s still working on the case.

“I haven’t seen anything so far that shows any improprieties,” Special Prosecutor Kevin Baxter said Tuesday, “but I’m also not done with my investigation.”

Mike Kovack

Mike Kovack

Baxter, who serves as Erie County’s prosecutor, was appointed in April after county sheriff’s deputies completed their investigation into the allegations.

Medina County Prosecutor Dean Holman asked that a special prosecutor be appointed to handle the case.

Baxter said he could not say when his investigation will be finished.

“We’re just not sitting on it,” Baxter said. “We’re trying to consult with Mr. Kovack and his attorney to get this investigation complete.”

Kovack said he asked for an investigation in March after a “disgruntled employee” claimed he used office materials, such as copy machines, in his re-election campaign.

Kovack, who has served as county auditor since 1993, is challenged in the Nov. 4 election by Medina Finance Director Keith Dirham.

Kovack said he was glad to hear the prosecutor hasn’t found anything to substantiate the allegations.

“I’m elated to hear that,” Kovack said. “We continue to fully cooperate in the investigation, which we instigated.”

The accusations against Kovack received wide publicity two weeks ago when the county commissioners forwarded a letter to Holman listing allegations they’d received from Kovack’s employee.

Commissioners said they passed on the information because they didn’t know an investigation already had begun.

On Tuesday, Kovack charged that the actions of the commissioners, who are all Republicans, were politically motivated.

“I am terribly disappointed with the commissioners’ actions,” Kovack said. “They most certainly knew the investigation was already going on. One can only assume it was done for political purposes.”

Kovack, Holman and Baxter are Democrats.

Commissioner Steve Hambley said earlier this month that he was unaware of any investigation and forwarded the allegations because commissioners don’t do investigations.

But Hambley, who’s running to succeed Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder as representative of the 69th District, on Tuesday clarified his previous statement.

“I had heard something was going on, but I didn’t know the specific allegations,” Hambley said. “I thought it was new information, so I wanted to give it to the person who does investigation — the prosecutor.”

Commissioners Adam Friedrick and Pat Geissman could not be reached for comment.

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.