The political fate of Clermont County Commissioner Mary Walker has become uncertain after a special prosecutor has been named to investigate the possibility of an ethics breech.
Walker, who was named in an audit from State Auditor Mary Taylor for possibly violating ethics law, could face jail time and fines for allegedly approving the payment of county funds to companies and organizations owned or operated by family members.
According to the audit, Walker approved approximately $650,000 in payments that could have benefitted either her husband or son in their business or professional endeavors. While the audit fell short of suggesting a breech in ethics, it did suggest that the county embark on a policy change to prevent the potential for a future ethics breech of this nature. However, an investigation by the Ohio Ethics Commission may result in charges being filed in at least one of these instances.
Lynn Alan Grimshaw has been named special prosecutor in the case, which may begin as early as this month. While criminal negligence has yet to be proven in this case, local political authorities say that the damage caused by this incident will most likely be a killing blow to Walker's political career.
"I have not heard from commissioner Walker as to whether or not she would seek the party endorsement," said Clermont Republican Party Chairman Tim Rudd. "Our endorsement policy requires a candidate get 60 percent of the quorum present at the endorsement meeting vote. In reviewing the situation that commissioner Walker currently finds herself in with the finding from the state auditor and being referred to the Ohio Ethics Commission, in my judgement, I don't believe the central committee would give the official endorsement of the party, nor do I think she should seek the endorsement of the party."
Rudd said that the party will meet to vote on endorsements on Nov. 28, and that hopefuls for those endorsements must have applied by Nov. 20. However, even given that time, Rudd said that he doesn't think that Walker will be proven innocent in time to receive a local endorsement.
"Based upon just looking at the commissioner's minutes, the relevant code sections, the relevant advisory opinions of the Ohio Ethics Commission and some of the past history of the Ohio Ethics Commission, I don't believe that's a possibility," said Rudd.