Saturday, August 14, 2004

Hamilton Co. GOP must repay tainted gift

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - A judge has ordered the Hamilton County Republican Party to forfeit $50,000 it received that was intended as a concealed contribution to the state treasurer's campaign.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Carolyn Friedland this week ordered that the party give the money to the Cleveland special prosecutor investigating the office of Treasurer Joseph Deters.

In March, a Cleveland securities broker pleaded guilty to giving the money to the party's operating account in December 2001 as a disguised donation to Deters' campaign.

Prosecutors have said that Frank Gruttadauria gave campaign contributions in exchange for business from the treasurer's office. Deters has denied the claims.

A fund-raiser for Deters and the party, Eric Sagun, also pleaded guilty last month to a misdemeanor election-law violation for soliciting the donation when it was intended for Deters. He said he expects the party will pay.

Special Prosecutor Thomas Sammon said the money was "part of a criminal transaction" and should be forfeited.

Hamilton County GOP Chairman Michael Barrett couldn't be reached and Executive Director Tara Kriss referred questions to Barrett.

The investigation started in January after Gruttadauria was indicted on charges that included bribing a public official.

Sammon has said there wasn't enough evidence to determine whether Deters was aware of any criminal conduct.

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