By Ed Runyan
Former Newton Falls Mayor Pat Layshock has agreed to a public reprimand for attending meetings and making phone calls in 2009 in support of a project that would have benefited his brother.
In exchange, misdemeanor ethics charges filed against him have been dropped.
The settlement agreement was formalized Friday in Ravenna Municipal Court, where Judge Barbara R. Watson dismissed the charges.
The hearing itself was short and uneventful, with Layshock, his attorney and prosecutors telling Judge Watson that they had reached a settlement.
Judge Watson praised the parties for resolving the matter in a way that saved taxpayers the cost of a trial.
Layshock’s punishment is the document he signed Sept. 20, 2012, now a public record, containing the facts laid out by the Ohio Ethics Commission and A. Joseph Fritz, Newton Falls law director.
“Per the terms of this settlement agreement, the state hereby issues a public reprimand to Patrick Layshock for violations of ethics laws,” the agreement says.
Layshock participated in meetings in Newton Falls and Warren while he was mayor in early 2009 that “had some connection with his brother, Kenneth Layshock’s business and property interests in claimed violation” of Ohio law, it says.
Layshock also made two phone calls to city officials in relation to his brother’s business interests, the document says.
The business interests were a proposed Forum Health urgent care center on state Route 534 south of the Pamida store proposed for land Kenneth Layshock owned.
The project never came to fruition.
The Ohio Ethics Commission began to investigate the matter in August 2009 and authorized its staff to share investigation results with prosecutors in Trumbull County in June 2011.
As a result, Fritz filed the misdemeanor ethics charges against Pat Layshock in January 2012.
The case, handled by Watson, a visiting judge, was moved to Ravenna from Newton Falls Municipal Court because of pretrial publicity.
The public reprimand does not prohibit Layshock from running for public office again, but Layshock said he won’t be running again.
“I am completely done with public service,” he said by phone Friday evening.
“It puts a black mark on your record for the future,” Fritz said, adding that this type of settlement agreement makes sense in situations like this, in which a jail sentence or fine “are not adequate for what you want to do.”
Layshock said his participation in the two meetings was minimal.
At one meeting, he simply answered one question.
At the other, he spent the entire time in the hallway talking on the phone.
Layshock said the investigation resulted from a “witch hunt” by his political enemies, but he decided not to go to trial because it would have cost him $15,000.
Julie Korte, chief investigative attorney for the Ethics Commission, said alleged ethics violations are investigated because “the public needs to be assured that government leaders have integrity, and if an official violates ethics laws they will be held accountable.”