THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
NAPOLEON — Former Henry County Commissioner Richard Myers showed little expression Friday as a judge declared him guilty on one count of having an illegal interest in a contract.
After hearing a day and a half of testimony Monday and Tuesday in Henry County Common Pleas Court, visiting Judge Randall Basinger of Putnam County found that Myers, 64, of Liberty Center had convinced his fellow commissioners in 2009 to loan $300,000 to a specialty car company in which he had invested $25,000 of his own money without disclosing that fact to the board.
Myers delivered the loan money to Revenge Designs Inc., before a closing had taken place, and the company never repaid the money or moved its operations to Henry County as it had promised.
“Mixing personal and public interests is a recipe for a criminal conviction,” said State Auditor Dave Yost, whose office investigated the matter. “Justice was done.”
Judge Basinger dismissed two counts of money laundering at the trial’s conclusion and acquitted Myers of a second count of having an illegal interest in a contract.
Whether Myers will have to pay the county any or all of the $300,000 as restitution is expected to be decided at his sentencing Oct. 3. Judge Basinger asked that both sides submit briefs regarding restitution.
The county’s revolving loan fund was frozen by the state after the loan. Commissioners decided to repay the loan from the county’s general fund in order to reactivate the loan fund, which provides gap financing for new or expanding businesses.
Defense attorney Martin Mohler contended at trial that Myers’ prosecution was all about trying to recoup that money, even though Myers did not receive a dime of it.
“He’s disappointed that he was convicted of anything,” Mr. Mohler said after the verdict was announced. “He’s disappointed, but we certainly respect the judge’s decision.”
Mr. Mohler said he’s “not sure restitution is appropriate in this case.”
“The funds were repaid by the county,” he said. “The indictment [said] the revolving loan fund was the victim ... so the judge is going to have to opine whether or not it’s permissible to order restitution to a third party, namely the county.”
Myers, a Democrat who lost his re-election bid last November, declined to comment.
Special prosecutor Robert Smith, assistant chief counsel for the state auditor, said he will seek the funds’ repayment. He said he did not plan to ask for prison time, although the charge is a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in prison.
Mr. Mohler said he would ask for community control for Myers, who he said throughout the trial was simply trying to attract new jobs to Henry County during a tough economic time.
“If Myers is guilty of anything, it is only that he may have believed in an economic-development project that ultimately did not succeed,” he said in his closing arguments.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.