An Ohio appellate court has ruled that local Republican and former state Rep. Sally Perz cannot be ordered to pay the prosecution costs stemming from her 2006 conviction for violating state ethics law.
The decision, released yesterday, was the second time within a year that the 6th District Court of Appeals reversed Judge Mark Reddin over the financial sanctions imposed on Ms. Perz for taking money from Tom Noe to attend a presidential fund-raiser in 2003.
Ms. Perz and three other local Republicans were found guilty in Toledo Municipal Court of failing to report money they took as gifts from Noe to attend the fund-raiser in Columbus.
Former Lucas County Commissioner Maggie Thurber; Donna Owens, a former Toledo mayor and former director of the Ohio Department of Commerce, and Betty Shultz, a Toledo councilman, also were convicted.
As part of the sentence, visiting Judge Reddin of Bowling Green ordered the women to reimburse the Ohio Ethics Commission for costs of the investigation and the prosecution.
Only Ms. Perz challenged her $4,125 share of the $16,499 in reimbursement costs.
The appellate court in August ruled that Ms. Perz was not responsible for paying the investigation costs and remanded the case to municipal court.
A hearing in the court resulted in Ms. Perz being ordered to pay $2,025 incurred by Special Prosecutor Lynn Grimshaw.
However, the appellate panel - Judges Mark Pietrykowski, William Skow, and Thomas Osowik - said Judge Reddin exceeded his authority in imposing the order for prosecution costs.
"The court attempted to impose sanctions that were not authorized under state law," said Barry Savage, a Toledo attorney who represents Ms. Perz. "Maybe the court will now understand what it can do and cannot do. I didn't expect to take this case up twice."
The appellate court reached its decision on arguments raised by Mr. Savage, and without briefs supporting the costs from Mr. Grimshaw. Mr. Grimshaw said he didn't believe continuing to represent the county on the appeal was a wise use of taxpayer funds, and justice had been achieved with the conviction.
"Ms. Perz was convicted of the offenses. One of the things that we hope to do in this type of case is to attract publicity. When public officials step out of bounds and do things they shouldn't do, there is a certain amount of humiliation. Hopefully, the public won't forget what she did," he said.
The women each entered no-contest pleas in Municipal Court and were found guilty by Judge Reddin. They were each fined $1,000 and court costs, which they each paid in full.
They were charged for failing to disclose that Noe paid the meal portion of the fund-raiser. State law requires certain public officials to disclose the source of all gifts greater than $75 on annual disclosure statements.
Noe, who was 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 fund-raiser.
- Mark Reiter