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Published: Thursday, 6/19/2008

Ex-senator won t face charges in workers compensation scandal

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS Former state Sen. Jeffry Armbruster will not face charges on allegations he wielded the power of his public office to garner a dramatic reduction in workers compensation premiums paid by a gas station business he co-owned.

"After detailed review, we have determined that there currently exists insufficient evidence to proceed with criminal charges in this matter," wrote Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O Brien in a letter dated Monday.

Mr. Armbruster, a Republican, represented eastern Seneca, Huron, and Lorain counties in the Ohio Senate from 1999 through 2006 when term limits forced him out.

The Joint Legislative Ethics Committee last year referred the case to Mr. O Brien for possible criminal prosecution, a first for the evenly bipartisan panel of 12 state representatives and senators.

The committee said at the time that it believed Mr. Armbruster may have violated state law by combining discussions about his own workers compensation problems with talks about a bill affecting the operations of the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation. Those discussions resulted in an 88 percent reduction in premiums.

State law forbids lawmakers from using their offices for personal gain and from receiving direct or indirect compensation from a third party for the performance of their duties. Each violation could have been a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Mr. Armbruster s attorney had maintained that the senator had only used his experience as an example for the problem he hoped to solve with the legislation he was proposing. He had argued that the bureau had been overcharging the business and that the subsequent change in premiums was correcting an error.

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



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