State Ethics Commission To Get Report On Franklin County Auditor

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The Ohio Auditor of State is referring findings about a controversial Franklin County Auditor contract to the state ethics commission.

Clarence Mingo authorized the contract to pay a woman who had leveled allegations that Mingo sexually harassed her and another woman in the office. 

Jerzell Pierre-Louis had worked as Mingo's chief until she accused him of sexually harassing her and claiming that another woman in the office had made similar accusations.

After Mingo fired Pierre-Louis, she hired an attorney, Rex Elliott.

Elliott negotiated a contract with Mingo's office that allowed her to receive $135,000 to do work that she had been doing prior to her termination. That contract allowed Pierre-Louis to get paid even she did not perform the tasks required. 

The Ohio State Auditor was critical of that provision. 

"(It) could leave the impression that they were going to pay her whether she did the work or not," said Carrie Bartunek, a spokeswoman for the state auditor. "Not an impression you want to leave," she said. 

The state auditor is referring its report to the Ohio State Ethics Commission to determine whether any laws were broken. However, Bartunek cautioned that her office had no official opinion about whether Mingo violated the law.

"We are referring it to the ethics commission because we think they should take a closer look at themselves," she Bartunek said. 

Bartunek also said the auditor's office found that Pierre-Louis had done the work for which she was contracted.

Her attorney stressed the same point.

"Jerzell intended to do the work and she did do the work," Elliott said. 

However, Elliott acknowledged that a clause that allowed Pierre-Louis to get paid without doing the work could look suspicious. 

"It's a very good question and one that the ethic's commission is going to have to take a look at," Elliott said. "Why would you put a clause in there that says you don't have to do the work, if the work is that important."

Mingo sent a statement that seems to ignore the state auditor's criticism.

Mingo wrote: "We are pleased the Auditor of State's Office recently completed its annual review of our office and for a fifth consecutive year came back with a clean audit. I took the extra step to voluntarily ask for a review of our vendor contract with Jerzell Pierre-Louis. Today, the Auditor of State's Office found no issue with the vendor's work product proving our point that good and valuable services were provided to residents of Franklin County. We look forward to the next review because as we have said before and as has been demonstrated today, none of these accusations has merit."

Regardless of whether the contract broke any laws, the state auditor recommended that Mingo do things differently in the future.