YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – After nearly three decades in public office, Ron Gerberry’s career as an Ohio representative was officially over Friday.
The Austintown Democrat agreed to be found guilty for mishandling campaign funds. He appeared in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Friday morning. Judge Maureen Sweeney convicted Gerberry of one count of improper compensation of a public official, a first degree misdemeanor.
Judge Sweeney sentenced him to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, all suspended, and three years probation. Gerberry also agreed to donate what is left in his campaign account to six charities.
Gerberry was accused of sending thousands of dollars to a media consultant during the 2010 campaign and claiming the payments on his financial statements as covering advertising expenses. The consultant then refunded much of that money later on.
After the court session, Gerberry read from a prepared statement. He said what he was trying to do was reduce what he’d be expected to donate to party leaders in the General Assembly. He said, “”At the time, the Ohio House Democratic Caucus was putting tremendous pressure on all the members to contribute money to the campaigns of other Democrats”.
Gerberry insists none of the returned money ever went into his own pocket and that he never realized until later what he’d done was a crime. “But ignorance of the law is no excuse, and I want everyone to know that I accept full responsibility for my actions.”
Gerberry sent a letter Aug. 7 to Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger, stating that he planned to resign his position as an Ohio state representative on Friday, Aug. 21.
Gerberry waived his right to an indictment after being charged Wednesday, according to documents filed in Mahoning County Court.
Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains hopes there’s a message here. “I’m just hoping that other public officials learn a lesson from this..That you can’t play fast and loose with campaign finance laws”.
In court, Gerberry said, “I am truly remorseful. And i’m sorry. And I apologize to the people of Mahoning County”.
That same Democratic Caucus that Gerberry spoke of will name his replacement.