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Published: Saturday, 8/4/2007

Court rules Perz not liable for probe cost in Noe case

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A local Republican who took money from Tom Noe to attend a presidential fund-raiser in 2003 won a challenge to the order that she pay for portions of the Ohio Ethics Commission s investigation that led to her conviction.

Sally Perz, a former state representative, filed an appeal with the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals in November regarding the $4,125 she was ordered to pay for her portion of the investigation for violating state ethics laws.

Among the issues she raised on appeal was that visiting Judge Mark Reddin, of Bowling Green, did not adhere to the agreement made with Ms. Perz before she entered her plea.

Yesterday, the appellate court ruled in a unanimous decision by Judges Thomas Osowik, Arlene Singer, and William Skow that although Ms. Perz should be responsible for the costs of prosecution, she is not required to pay the costs of the investigation.

The plea agreement was $1,000 fine and court costs, period. That s all it provided for, said Ms. Perz s attorney, Barry Savage.

The court when they accept a plea they are bound by what is set forth in that agreement, he said.

Ms. Perz could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Her case was remanded back to Toledo Municipal Court for further proceedings, taking into consideration the appellate court s decision.

Ms. Perz was among four prominent Republicans convicted on one count each of failing to report the gift of the luncheon from Noe on their annual financial-disclosure forms.

Ms. Perz; Donna Owens, a former Toledo mayor and former director of the Ohio Department of Commerce; Betty Schultz, a Toledo councilman, and former Lucas County Commissioner Maggie Thurber each entered no-contest pleas in June, 2006, in Toledo Municipal Court.

They were found guilty and fined $1,000, which they each paid in full.

They also were ordered to pay the costs of prosecution and investigation, a ruling that only Ms. Perz appealed.

In its decision, the appellate court ruled that although the trial court was not expressly prohibited from ordering Ms. Perz to pay the costs of the investigation, state law does not give direct or implied authorization for the trial court to order her to pay such costs.

Accordingly, the trial court abused its discretion when it deviated from the terms of the negotiated plea agreement by ordering appellant to pay a pro rata portion of the costs of the OEC s investigation in this case, the appellate court ruled yesterday.

The women were charged for failing to disclose that Noe paid the meal portion of the October, 2003, fund-raiser.

State law requires certain public officials to disclose the source of all gifts greater than $75.

H. Ritchey Hollenbaugh, an attorney from Columbus who represented Ms. Thurber, Ms. Owens, and Ms. Schultz, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Brenda Majdalani, a Lucas County assistant prosecutor, also could not be reached for comment.

Noe, who was at the center of the conduit scandal, was sentenced in September, 2006, in U.S. District Court in Toledo to 27 months in federal prison for illegally funneling $45,500 to the women and 20 others to attend President Bush s re-election fund-raiser in Columbus.

Contact Erica Blake at:eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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