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O'Brien files sworn statement apologizing for finance errors



Published: Wed, August 31, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The mayor doesn't think his wife's deposits to wrong accounts were intentional.

By JEFF ORTEGA

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

COLUMBUS -- Warren's mayor is apologizing for errors he said his campaign made in handling some political contributions from 2000 to 2003, when he was a Trumbull County commissioner.

In a sworn statement filed with the Ohio Elections Commission, Michael O'Brien apologizes for what he called "mistakes" in the handling of campaign contributions that authorities say might have been converted to personal use.

"I had no knowledge that these contributions had not been deposited to my campaign committee's account until Aug. 13, 2004," O'Brien said.

The commission is scheduled to hear complaints Thursday by a Trumbull County special prosecutor alleging possible campaign finance violations against O'Brien and former Commissioner Joseph J. Angelo Jr. The allegations, if proved, would be misdemeanors.

"When I became aware of this, I took immediate action to address and correct the mistakes," O'Brien said in an affidavit.

Details of complaint

According to complaints filed last month by Victor V. Vigluicci, special prosecutor in a probe of Trumbull County purchasing practices:

UO'Brien, from 2000 to 2003, received $2,035 in campaign contributions that were deposited into the joint personal checking account with his wife, Louise, or the personal savings of son Dominic and Louise O'Brien.

UAngelo, from 1999 to 2002, had contributions of $25 or less that "significantly exceeded amounts traceable to the campaign bank account." The complaint says that the total amount of contributions received by the Angelo campaign but not deposited, according to records, is $7,805.

UThree checks totaling $4,100 were written from Angelo's campaign bank account to him or his wife as "loans." One for $1,000 was payable to Angelo's wife, Toni, and two checks totaling $3,100 were made payable to then-Commissioner Angelo.

Possible violations

In O'Brien's case, the complaint says there's no evidence the money in question was ever transferred into the campaign account; converting campaign funds to personal use is prohibited by state law.

In Angelo's case, the complaint said it was unclear whether the checks were intended to be repayments on personal loans or if they represented a loan from the campaign fund to the Angelos. State law doesn't permit loans from campaign funds to a candidate.

Angelo, defeated in the 2004 Democratic primary, has not filed an answer to Vigluicci's complaint and has sought a continuance, a commission spokesman said.

O'Brien's response

In his affidavit, O'Brien said he formed his campaign committee in 1992. In 1997, O'Brien said his wife agreed to be the campaign committee's treasurer, a post she had until July 26, 2005.

"It was always my belief that all contributions were deposited to my committee's campaign account at Sky Bank," O'Brien said. "However, I learned on Aug. 13, 2004 that a small number of contributions from 2000 to 2003 had been deposited to Louise's and my joint account, also at Sky Bank, and some were partially withdrawn as cash at the time of deposit."

"Louise was also responsible for our joint account, making deposits and paying bills," he said. "Also, apparently one contribution in the amount of $120 was mistakenly deposited to my wife and son's savings account, also at Sky Bank."

"I do not believe that these deposits to the wrong accounts were intentional on my wife's part," he said. "Mistakes may have happened due to insufficient attention to the correct account number."

The mayor, elected to that office in 2003, or his wife have made three deposits from personal funds to O'Brien's campaign fund totaling $2,035 to correct any alleged campaign finance mistakes, his affidavit said. To correct cash contributions to the campaign fund that allegedly had not been deposited, but had been reported on campaign finance reports, O'Brien has deposited $1,313 from personal funds to his campaign account.




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