(A) The appropriate ethics commission shall receive and may initiate complaints against persons subject to this chapter concerning conduct alleged to be in violation of this chapter or section 2921.42 or 2921.43 of the Revised Code. All complaints except those by the commission shall be by affidavit made on personal knowledge, subject to the penalties of perjury. Complaints by the commission shall be by affidavit, based upon reasonable cause to believe that a violation has occurred.
(B) The appropriate ethics commission shall investigate complaints, may investigate charges presented to it, and may request further information, including the specific amount of income from a source, from any person filing with the commission a statement required by section 102.02 or 102.021 of the Revised Code, if the information sought is directly relevant to a complaint or charges received by the commission pursuant to this section. This information is confidential, except that the commission, in its discretion, may share information gathered in the course of any investigation with, or disclose the information to, the inspector general, any appropriate prosecuting authority, any law enforcement agency, or any other appropriate ethics commission. If the accused person is a member of the public employees retirement board, state teachers retirement board, school employees retirement board, board of trustees of the Ohio police and fire pension fund, or state highway patrol retirement board, or is a member of the bureau of workers' compensation board of directors, the appropriate ethics commission, in its discretion, also may share information gathered in the course of an investigation with, or disclose the information to, the attorney general and the auditor of state. The person so requested shall furnish the information to the commission, unless within fifteen days from the date of the request the person files an action for declaratory judgment challenging the legitimacy of the request in the court of common pleas of the county of the person's residence, the person's place of employment, or Franklin county. The requested information need not be furnished to the commission during the pendency of the judicial proceedings. Proceedings of the commission in connection with the declaratory judgment action shall be kept confidential except as otherwise provided by this section. Before the commission proceeds to take any formal action against a person who is the subject of an investigation based on charges presented to the commission, a complaint shall be filed against the person. If the commission finds that a complaint is not frivolous, and there is reasonable cause to believe that the facts alleged in a complaint constitute a violation of section 102.02, 102.021, 102.03, 102.04, 102.07, 2921.42, or 2921.43 of the Revised Code, it shall hold a hearing. If the commission does not so find, it shall dismiss the complaint and notify the accused person in writing of the dismissal of the complaint. The commission shall not make a report of its finding unless the accused person requests a report. Upon the request of the accused person, the commission shall make a public report of its finding. The person against whom the complaint is directed shall be given reasonable notice by certified mail of the date, time, and place of the hearing and a statement of the charges and the law directly involved and shall be given the opportunity to be represented by counsel, to have counsel appointed for the person if the person is unable to afford counsel without undue hardship, to examine the evidence against the person, to produce evidence and to call and subpoena witnesses in the person's defense, to confront the person's accusers, and to cross-examine witnesses. The commission shall have a stenographic record made of the hearing. The hearing shall be closed to the public.
(a) If, upon the basis of the hearing, the appropriate ethics commission finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the facts alleged in the complaint are true and constitute a violation of section 102.02, 102.021, 102.03, 102.04, 102.07, 2921.42, or 2921.43 of the Revised Code, it shall report its findings to the appropriate prosecuting authority for proceedings in prosecution of the violation and to the appointing or employing authority of the accused. If the accused person is a member of the public employees retirement board, state teachers retirement board, school employees retirement board, board of trustees of the Ohio police and fire pension fund, or state highway patrol retirement board, the commission also shall report its findings to the Ohio retirement study council.
(b) If the Ohio ethics commission reports its findings to the appropriate prosecuting authority under division (C)(1)(a) of this section and the prosecuting authority has not initiated any official action on those findings within ninety days after receiving the commission's report of them, the commission may publicly comment that no official action has been taken on its findings, except that the commission shall make no comment in violation of the Rules of Criminal Procedure or about any indictment that has been sealed pursuant to any law or those rules. The commission shall make no comment regarding the merits of its findings. As used in division (C)(1)(b) of this section, "official action" means prosecution, closure after investigation, or grand jury action resulting in a true bill of indictment or no true bill of indictment.
(2) If the appropriate ethics commission does not find by a preponderance of the evidence that the facts alleged in the complaint are true and constitute a violation of section 102.02, 102.021, 102.03, 102.04, 102.07, 2921.42, or 2921.43 of the Revised Code or if the commission has not scheduled a hearing within ninety days after the complaint is filed or has not finally disposed of the complaint within six months after it has been heard, it shall dismiss the complaint and notify the accused person in writing of the dismissal of the complaint. The commission shall not make a report of its finding unless the accused person requests a report. Upon the request of the accused person, the commission shall make a public report of the finding, but in this case all evidence and the record of the hearing shall remain confidential unless the accused person also requests that the evidence and record be made public. Upon request by the accused person, the commission shall make the evidence and the record available for public inspection.
(D) The appropriate ethics commission, or a member of the commission, may administer oaths, and the commission may issue subpoenas to any person in the state compelling the attendance of witnesses and the production of relevant papers, books, accounts, and records. The commission shall issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents upon the request of an accused person. Section 101.42 of the Revised Code shall govern the issuance of these subpoenas insofar as applicable. Upon the refusal of any person to obey a subpoena or to be sworn or to answer as a witness, the commission may apply to the court of common pleas of Franklin county under section 2705.03 of the Revised Code. The court shall hold proceedings in accordance with Chapter 2705. of the Revised Code. The commission or the accused person may take the depositions of witnesses residing within or without the state in the same manner as prescribed by law for the taking of depositions in civil actions in the court of common pleas.
(E) At least once each year, the Ohio ethics commission shall report on its activities of the immediately preceding year to the majority and minority leaders of the senate and house of representatives of the general assembly. The report shall indicate the total number of complaints received, initiated, and investigated by the commission, the total number of complaints for which formal hearings were held, and the total number of complaints for which formal prosecution was recommended or requested by the commission. The report also shall indicate the nature of the inappropriate conduct alleged in each complaint and the governmental entity with which any employee or official that is the subject of a complaint was employed at the time of the alleged inappropriate conduct.
(F) All papers, records, affidavits, and documents upon any complaint, inquiry, or investigation relating to the proceedings of the appropriate ethics commission shall be sealed and are private and confidential, except as otherwise provided in this section and section 102.07 of the Revised Code.
(1) When a complaint or charge is before it, the Ohio ethics commission or the appropriate prosecuting authority, in consultation with the person filing the complaint or charge, the accused, and any other person the commission or prosecuting authority considers necessary, may compromise or settle the complaint or charge with the agreement of the accused. The compromise or settlement may include mediation, restitution, rescission of affected contracts, forfeiture of any benefits resulting from a violation or potential violation of law, resignation of a public official or employee, or any other relief that is agreed upon between the commission or prosecuting authority and the accused.
(2) Any settlement agreement entered into under division (G)(1) of this section shall be in writing and be accompanied by a statement of the findings of the commission or prosecuting authority and the reasons for entering into the agreement. The commission or prosecuting authority shall retain the agreement and statement in the commission's or prosecuting authority's office and, in the commission's or prosecuting authority's discretion, may make the agreement, the statement, and any supporting information public, unless the agreement provides otherwise.
(3) If a settlement agreement is breached by the accused, the commission or prosecuting authority, in the commission's or prosecuting authority's discretion, may rescind the agreement and reinstitute any investigation, hearing, or prosecution of the accused. No information obtained from the accused in reaching the settlement that is not otherwise discoverable from the accused shall be used in any proceeding before the commission or by the appropriate prosecuting authority in prosecuting the violation. Notwithstanding any other section of the Revised Code, if a settlement agreement is breached, any statute of limitations for a violation of this chapter or section 2921.42 or 2921.43 of the Revised Code is tolled from the date the complaint or charge is filed until the date the settlement agreement is breached.
Effective Date: 09-05-2001; 09-15-2004; 05-18-2005; 09-29-2005; 2007 HB100 09-10-2007