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Published: Wednesday, 8/8/2007

Coleman s wife avoids jail time, returns to rehab

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS Frankie Coleman avoided jail time and returned to an alcohol treatment program yesterday after pleading no contest to attempted theft and falsification charges.

Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Harland H. Hale sentenced the wife of Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman to 360 days but suspended the prison time in favor of five years probation, $1,000 in fines, and 100 hours of unspecified community service.

I want to apologize for creating this problem, particularly for my family and myself, Mrs. Coleman, 56, told the court. I admit I do have a drinking problem, and I m very proud of myself that I am working on it successfully, and in recovery for it.

In her short-lived, $70,000-a-year state work-force development job, Mrs. Coleman claimed and was paid for 56 hours she didn t work and then lied about it to investigators.

Judge Hale ordered Mrs. Coleman to continue her residential treatment program through the end of the month and to remain alcohol-free during her five years of probation.

Mrs. Coleman has paid restitution of $2,100 to the state so far.

I wish you well, and I wish you a speedy recovery, he told her. But I want to emphasize, though, that I too have a duty and, should there be serious problems with completing probation, I will not hesitate, if I m required, to impose significant jail time down the road.

Mrs. Coleman left the courtroom without comment, the Democratic mayor at her side. Mr. Coleman, who grew up in Toledo, sat behind his wife in court and watched quietly as she entered her pleas, much as he did more than a year ago when she entered a plea to drunken driving that sent her to jail for three days.

The mayor has also participated in parts of her current in-patient alcohol treatment program.

While it is hard to go into alcohol recovery in such a public way, we are dealing with this as a family, focused on healing, the future, and our love for each other, the Coleman family said in a written statement. We apologize for the mistakes that were made.

Ohio Inspector General Tom Charles, who had referred the case to the city attorney s office following his investigation, said he felt the outcome was fair.

We didn t give anybody any special treatment on our end, and I didn t see any on this end, he said. I thought it was done in a fair and above-board approach.

Mr. Charles final report had been critical of Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, who, as development director, was Mrs. Coleman s boss. The report said he and his staff missed obvious signs that the hiring of his friend had been a mistake.

City and county prosecutors opted not to file a felony perjury charge against Mrs. Coleman. Her attorney, H. Ritchey Hollenbaugh, said a perjury charge must involve lying in a formal court proceeding.

Mrs. Coleman initially insisted to investigators that she worked all of the hours she had claimed. But electronic parking records later revealed she frequently arrived at work late, left early, took long lunch hours, and sometimes never arrived at all on dates she claimed to have worked. She later admitted she lied.

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



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