Thursday, July 13, 2000

Norwood mayor won't resign

Statement to council acknowledges county investigations

By Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NORWOOD — Mayor Joe Hochbein, acknowledging that he is under investigation by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and may face indictment by a Hamilton County grand jury, said in a statement Wednesday he has no intention of relinquishing office.

        “There have been anonymous reports circulating that I am resigning as I am under investigation, and that there might be an indictment of me.

        “I am the mayor of Norwood, and will continue to be mayor of Norwood as long as my health enables me,” the mayor said.

        Mr. Hochbein also said he has received reports that he is under investigation by the Norwood police and the treasurer's office.

        Police Chief William Schlie said his department has not conducted, and is not conducting, any investigation of the mayor. Any investigation by the treasurer would need to be coordinated through the police department, he said.

        City Treasurer Tim Molony said he has not initiated any investigation and noted he has no power to conduct such an inquiry. “Have we cooperated with the (sheriff's) investigation? Absolutely — as have other city departments. The auditor's office, the law department have, too,” he said.

        Chief Schlie said he is aware the sheriff's office has investigated the mayor and that evidence is expected to be presented to the grand jury this month.

        At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, the may or told the panel of his intent to remain in office while noting he has heard rumors he faces “from two to 48 indictments or anything in between.”

        Democratic Councilman Wil Deluca called the mayor's comments to council “grandstanding.” “I believe it was a desperate, premeditated tactic by the mayor, members of his administration and (some) members of City Council,” Mr. Deluca said. He added that City Council meetings are not the appropriate forum for Mr. Hochbein “to grandstand his potential legal problems. It's simply not city business.”

        Sheriff's detectives have investigated the use of public employees at the Norwood Car Show. A $150 check from the car show was later sent to Victory 2000, a campaign committee for the Norwood Republican Party.

        Mr. Hochbein also has recently been accused of violating Ohio's ethics laws.

        The mayor is named — along with three other city officials — in an “allegation form” to the Ohio Ethics Commission, requesting an investigation. The form does not name the person who filed the complaint.

        The complaint alleges that during the first half of 1999 the mayor, along with Service Director Gary Hubbard; Ward 5 Councilwoman Tina Adams; and Cliff Miller, then a councilman at-large, flew to Birmingham, Ala., at the expense of developer Jeffrey R. Anderson, who is completing the upscale Rookwood Commons commercial and office development off Edwards Road. Mr. Miller now is the city's safety director.

        The ethics filing notes that Mr. Anderson contributed $27,000 to the mayor's re-election campaign.

        Jennifer Hardin, chief advisory attorney for the ethics commission in Columbus, said all allegations to the commission and investigations are confidential.

        Mr. Hochbein said he flew with the three others in a private jet from Lunken Airport to Birmingham at the invitation and encouragement of Mr. Anderson, to view a development similar to Rookwood Commons. However, the mayor said he sees no ethics violation in taking the trip because Mr. Anderson already had been named developer for the project.

        Mr. Hochbein was re-elected in November to his second four-year term as mayor. The sheriff's investigation started at least a month before his re-election.


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