JACKSON — Jackson City Council voted 5-2 to pay former Jackson Mayor Randy Heath’s legal fees at the final meeting of 2019.
The special meeting of Jackson City Council was held on Monday, Dec. 30, 2019, with various final third readings of legislation on the agenda. Among those was Resolution No. 44-19.
The resolution authorized payment of legal fees not to exceed $8,208.25 for legal services required to defend Heath in court. Heath had hired, at his expense, Attorney William C. Martim, to defend him during a legal battle in 2019.
In June, Heath was facing misdemeanor criminal charges alleging he had an unlawful interest in a public contract while serving as mayor. That case against Heath had ultimately been dismissed with prejudice by August.
Heath was serving out his fourth term as Jackson mayor at that point in time. He had been indicted on a total of 10 counts: six counts of having an unlawful interest in a public contract, and four counts of violation of restrictions during or after employment.
However, three of the unlawful interest in a public contract counts were dismissed at his arraignment in July. The other seven were dismissed by retired Judge Timothy Hogan, from Hamilton County, who had been appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court to hear the case.
The investigation of this case was independently initiated and conducted by the Ohio Ethics Commission in Columbus. A special prosecutor, Laina Fetherolf Rogers, was appointed to decide whether to seek charges. She presented evidence to a grand jury, and criminal charges were approved.
The indictment had alleged criminal activity by Heath stemming from his activities as a member of the Jackson Board of Control in approving tourism grants to the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce. During the period alleged in the indictment, Heath served both as Jackson mayor and executive director of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber in 2015, 2016 and 2017 obtained grants ($6,000 each) from the city’s visitors and conventions commission, familiarly known as the tourism board, to promote tourism. Heath’s attorney alleged the mayor did not personally gain any money from the grants.
The tourism grants were placed upon the agenda of the board of control. Votes were taken, and Heath abstained. But the tourism grants by statute and ordinance were fully authorized upon approval of the tourism board, before submittal to the board of control. Once the tourism board voted to approve, the grants were authorized.
After extensive research by Rogers, it turned out that those funds never even needed to come before the Board of Control in the first place, so his participation was irrelevant to the distribution of funds.
Heath’s charges were dismissed, however, he still had to pay legal fees to Williams. A claim payment of fees was submitted to the city’s insurer pursuant to the city’s directors and officers’ liability policy, but payment was denied as the amount did not meet or exceed the policy’s $10,000 deductible. The City of Jackson decided to pay those legal fees.