Judge acquitted of misuse of funds, ethics violations

Lawrence Belskis had been accused by his former secretary and her husband.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- An Ohio Supreme Court disciplinary panel has dismissed all charges against a Franklin County probate judge who had been accused of misusing funds and ethics violations.
Judge Lawrence A. Belskis, who has served as probate judge for 14 years, made some bad decisions but did not break the law, the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline said Monday.
Judge Belskis' former secretary and her husband had accused the judge of using court employees to type term papers for his children, prepare paperwork for his wife's business and perform other personal tasks, according to the complaint.
Judge Belskis was also accused of using a court fund he controlled to pay for golfing trips with other judges and Christmas parties for employees.
The panel dismissed the remaining nine allegations from the original 17-part complaint Monday. The rest of the charges were dismissed earlier, with many thrown out after a January hearing.
"I'm glad it's all over. The system worked," Judge Belskis said.
Questionable testimony
According to the panel's opinion, the judges did not believe much of the testimony of former secretary Ingrid Johnson, who quit her job over the complaints.
Her husband, Bryan B. Johnson, a former bailiff and magistrate in the probate court, wanted to discredit Judge Belskis, a Republican, after the judge accused Johnson of ethics violations while handling a case, according to testimony. Johnson gave spending records to Democrats during Belskis' last campaign in 2002.
The panel said Judge Belskis used poor judgment in paying for golf and parties with the fund, which came from selling court mementos, but that there were no strict regulations for how to spend the money.
Judge Belskis repaid more than $15,000 in 2002 to cover the questioned expenses.
A message seeking comment was left at Bryan Johnson's law office.

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