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Published: Thursday, 6/14/2007

Former state senator Armbruster faces charges for seeking lower worker comp rates

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS A former Ohio senator faces potential criminal charges for allegedly using the influence of his office to have his company s workers compensation insurance premiums lowered.

During a closed-door meeting, the bipartisan Joint Legislative Ethics Council this morning determined sufficient evidence exists against Jeffry Armbruster, a former Republican senator from Lorain County, to refer the case to Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O Brien for possible prosecution.

"On or about Feb. 28, 2006, Jeffry J. Ambruster used his influence as a senator to obtain something of value; to wit, the discussion of legislation of interest to the Bureau of Workers Compensation, while concurrently discussing changes to [his policy], resulting in a rate reduction for his business interests," reads the report.

The referral marks the first for JLEC, which consists of 12 legislators evenly split between Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate. A minimum of eight votes were needed for referral.

Mr. Ambruster served the 13th Senate District stretching from Lorain County to eastern Seneca County until the end of last year when he was forced out by term limits.

He is accused of communicating with BWC representatives to convince them to lower premiums for Armbruster Energy Stores by 88 percent. The business had just acquired a gas station in Grafton.

State law forbids lawmakers from using the power of their offices for personal gain. He could face a misdemeanor conflict-of-interest charge punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The referral occurs amid a broader state investigation into how much politics steered decisions about workers compensation premiums, including whether businesses deserved lower group premiums based on their safety records.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.



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