NEW PHILADELPHIA – The criminal trial of suspended Dover Mayor Richard P. Homrighausen is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Tuesday with jury selection.
A pretrial hearing will be held at 2:30 p.m. Monday to handle any issues requiring resolution before the trial. Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Judge Elizabeth Lehigh Thomakos will preside.
The mayoral drama began about two years ago when Homrighausen stopped attending City Council meetings and showing up for work, prompting a council investigation into his physical and mental well-being. Council members repeatedly called upon him to resign, citing declining faith in his ability to lead the city.
The longtime mayor returned in July 2021 and found himself at the center of a state investigation with three special prosecutors from the Ohio Auditor’s Office assigned to the case. He also has been peppered with critical questions from the council about hiring, firing three employees who helped council and cost overruns at the city’s power plant.
He was suspended in April by a special commission appointed by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor.
“I will comply with the order of the special commission,” the mayor said in a prepared statement at the time. “My compliance with the order of the special commission is not an admission of any wrongdoing as mayor. I will continue to defend the allegations brought by the special prosecutor. I maintain my innocence.”
Here are five things to know about the case.
Richard Homrighausen has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Following his March indictment, Homrighausen pleaded not guilty to charges of theft in office, four counts of soliciting improper compensation, two counts of dereliction of duty, having an unlawful interest in a public contract and representation by a public official.
Seven charges relate to the collection of fees for officiating at weddings.
The theft-in-office charge alleges that he pocketed $9,295 for some 270 ceremonies.
The charges of soliciting improper compensation involve accusations that Homrighausen took money for performing four weddings. The prosecutor has said those charges are meant to put “flesh on the bones” of all the theft charges. They are expected to be examined in detail at the trial.
Both dereliction of duty charges allege that Homrighausen failed to turn over wedding fees to the city treasury between Jan. 1, 2014, and Jan. 4, 2021.
The charge of having an unlawful interest in a public contract relates to his involvement, from Nov. 1, 2012, to March 4, 2013, in the city’s hiring of his son, Peter.
The charge of representation by a public official arises from Homrighausen participating in, and ruling on, an overtime grievance filed by the same son, then a city light plant employee, on Feb. 21, 2016.
Tax charges were previously dismissed.
The prosecution dismissed six tax charges in July. Special Prosecutor Robert F. Smith, of the Ohio Auditor’s Office, declined to explain why he dropped the charges in July. The tax charges had alleged Homrighausen failed to report income from fees he collected for officiating at weddings.
He could go to prison and lose his pension.
Theft in office, a third-degree felony, carries a possible penalty of nine months to three years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
A theft-in-office conviction would also result in forfeiture of his state pension.
He could be barred from holding public office.
Conviction on either theft in office or having an unlawful interest in a public contract charge would cause Homrighausen’s removal from office, as both are felonies.
He’s still collecting a paycheck.
Under terms of state law, Homrighausen has continued to receive his annual salary of $100,542.48 since his May 4 suspension from office by a three-judge panel appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Homrighausen is in his eighth term as mayor. He was first elected in 1991 and most recently reelected in 2019. The next mayoral election will be in 2023.
More:Fired Dover employees return to work
Reach Nancy at 330-364-8402 or email@example.com.
On Twitter: @nmolnarTR
This article originally appeared on The Times-Reporter: Dover Mayor Richard Homrighausen trial to start Tuesday