Tough times for Dover as mayor faces criminal charges

Tough times for Dover as mayor faces criminal charges

Image Credit: File

It has been a long 14 months for Dover Mayor Richard P. Homrighausen, city council and the residents of Dover. Last week a Tuscarawas County grand jury handed down a 15-count indictment against the mayor for allegedly committing eight felonies and seven misdemeanors while in office.

The charges are:

—one count each of theft in office, having an unlawful interest in a public contract and representation by a public official or employee

—six counts of filing fraudulent tax returns

—four counts of soliciting improper compensation

—two counts of dereliction of duty

The charges stem from an investigation conducted by the Ohio Auditor of State’s Special Investigations Unit, assisted by the Ohio Ethics Commission. The SIU has recommended Homrighausen be ordered to pay restitution to the city for the wedding fees, plus $3,956 to the state for the cost of the audit.

An arraignment date has been set for Wed., March 30 at 1 p.m. in the court of Judge Elizabeth Thomakos with Robert Smith serving as the state auditor’s special prosecutor. Homrighausen will have to be fingerprinted at the police department one-half hour prior.

As a result of the indictment, Homrighausen could be suspended or removed from office. Under Ohio law, he can either voluntarily take a paid suspension or take the case before a three-judge panel appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The mayor has been in the hot seat for more than a year, beginning with the 2021 investigation by council into possible illegal and improper activities, the results of which were forwarded to state officials.

Homrighausen also vetoed a number of measures passed by council in the past year, including:

—a surcharge on electricity used by the Dover Chemical Corporation

—resolution 3-21 which launched the investigation of the mayor

—an end to leasing the old armory building to Dover Chemical

—hiring an assistant prosecutor

—rehiring three employees fired in December, Eva Newsome, Gerry Mroczkowski and Dave Douglas

—defunding the positions left vacant by the firings.

Homrighausen gave no reason for firing the three long-time employees, but it is believed they were terminated in retaliation for cooperating in the council investigation.

Explanation of charges

The theft in office charges allege Homrighausen pocketed payments totaling $9,295 in fees for weddings he performed that should have been placed in the city treasury. The tax fraud charges are based on the mayor’s failure to claim the wedding fees on federal, state or local tax returns from 2015 through 2020 and failing to claim them on ethics financial disclosure forms.

The “representation” charge is based on Homrighausen’s hiring of his son, Peter Homrighausen, at the Dover Light & Power plant, which is a violation of nepotism laws. The mayor also ruled on a grievance filed by his son in which Peter Homrighausen received pay for 24 hours of work he ostensibly did not perform.

Reactions

City Law Director Douglas O’Meara penned an open letter to the citizens of Dover, saying while the mayor is facing serious charges, “The mayor and his friends have spent a great deal of time and effort to denigrate these investigations, Dover’s city council and the dedicated employees who put their jobs and reputations on the line.”

O’Meara went on to say Newsome, Douglass and Mroczkowski “endured not only the indignities of false allegations against them, but serious financial consequences. They knew when they truthfully answered questions during these investigations that this mayor would eventually retaliate against them. They were right.”

O’Meara’s letter also mentioned the “extensive costs” incurred by the city due to the mayor’s “misconduct,” asking the public for patience as the legal process advances toward a close.

Council President Shane Gunnoe said, “The indictment of a sitting mayor in the city of Dover is a black eye for the community, and it’s embarrassing for a lot good people who work for the city. For thirteen months I’ve thought he should resign, and I believe it even more strongly now.

“With that said, I'm asking people in the community to pray for the justice system, the employees who have suffered so much, including those who were fired, and for healing within our community, because the last year-and-a-half has been very divisive over the actions of the mayor.”

Homrighausen did not respond to a request for comment by the Bargain Hunter, but his newest attorney, Mark DeVan of the Cleveland Firm Berkman, Gordon, Murray & DeVan did. DeVan said, “I would appreciate you not reaching out to the mayor with any further inquiries but direct all inquiries to me.”

When asked for comment, he replied, “My comment is that we have no comment at this time. We will speak during our appearances in court.”


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