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Published: Saturday, 2/26/2005

Grand jury given computers, records in corruption probe

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - The Ohio House of Representatives has turned over computers and hard drives assigned to former Speaker Larry Householder and ex-Chief of Staff Brett Buerck to a federal grand jury investigating corruption allegations.

A Feb. 1 subpoena sought "all personnel and other records relating" to Mr. Householder and Mr. Buerck from Jan. 1, 2001, through Dec. 31, 2004.

That included e-mails, correspondence, requests for reimbursements for personal use of state equipment such as telephones, copies of claims for reimbursed expenses, and payroll records, said Karen Tabor, a spokesman for House Speaker Jon Husted (R., Kettering).

Ms. Tabor said yesterday that the House supplied all the material the grand jury requested, including a laptop computer assigned to Mr. Householder, a desktop computer assigned to Mr. Buerck, and three compact discs.

In May, 2004, a federal grand jury subpoenaed records from firms hired by the House Republican Campaign Committee that Mr. Householder controlled, from Mr. Householder's campaign committee, and from Tom Whatman, a former executive director of the Ohio Republican Party.

Two months earlier, an anonymous nine-page memo surfaced that said the House Republican Campaign Committee overcharged for some campaign work, and the vendors that received the extra money paid kickbacks to Mr. Householder and his campaign aides.

Mr. Householder, who had planned to run for statewide office in 2006, could not run for re-election to the House last November. He ran for Perry County auditor and narrowly won.

Mr. Buerck, who became a consultant after stepping down as chief of staff to Mr. Householder, and fund-raiser Kyle Sisk lost their contracts last year with the House Republican caucus.

Mr. Householder, Mr. Buerck, Mr. Sisk, and vendors hired by the House Republican Campaign Committee when Mr. Householder was speaker have maintained they did not violate any laws.

The Feb. 1 subpoena was signed by John W. Scott, senior trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division, Public Integrity Section. In a letter to the chief administrative officer of the House, Mr. Scott said a House official would not have to appear before the grand jury in Columbus if the documents were given to the special agent who serves the subpoena.

Mr. Scott declined comment yesterday.

William Wilkinson, a Columbus attorney representing Mr. Householder, said the Feb. 1 subpoena is "another in a series of steps that is necessary to wade through in order to get to the end of this investigation."

"The investigators are just doing a good job of looking everywhere one might look for evidence of the unsubstantiated allegations of the infamous, anonymous memo," he said.

Contact James Drew at:

jdrew@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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