CLEVELAND - Democratic gubernatorial contender Ed FitzGerald is in the process of returning an improper campaign donation from an investment banker he nominated to a local economic-development board.
The Cuyahoga County executive received the $1,000 contribution from banker J.W. Sean Dorsey in April, a week after nominating the League Park Advisors CEO to the Cuyahoga County Community Improvement Corp., the Northeast Ohio Media Group reported Wednesday.
The panel reviews economic-development loan requests, not unlike the state job-creation board championed by Republican Gov. John Kasich that FitzGerald has criticized.
Under the ethics ordinance FitzGerald championed after taking over Cuyahoga County's corruption-ridden government in 2011, county employees and appointees can't contribute to politicians who appoint them. The county council approved Dorsey's appointment in June.
Spokeswoman Meredith Tucker said FitzGerald's campaign is vigilant about problematic donations. The county's inspector general reviews his campaign receipts against the county payroll and a list of appointees to boards and commissions, flagging conflicts for automatic return.
She said the Dorsey check was initially missed because his name is listed in several different ways.
Dorsey told the news organization in an email that no one solicited his contribution. He said he had been unaware county ethics policy prohibited the giving, and was informed the money would be returned.
FitzGerald reported the Dorsey donation in his July half-year report, according to the media group -- about the same time he intensified criticism of potential conflicts of interest involving JobsOhio.
That included the relationship between Kasich and Worthington Industries, a central Ohio steel producer that provided deferred compensation to the governor from his time as director then was recommended for tax credits.
The Ohio Ethics Commission rejected FitzGerald's request to investigate the Worthington relationship and the Ohio Republican Party said the Dorsey donation now represented an ethical conflict for FitzGerald.
"It does not take five months to return someone's check," said party spokesman Chris Schrimpf, referencing the time elapsed since the check was written. He said, "It takes, at most, a week to return someone's check. It appears FitzGerald is only taking action on this after he has been caught accepting an illegal donation."
Tucker said the donation was spotted and then flagged at the end of July, and the return was in process.