Lake County Commissioner Race…another conflict of interest brewing?

LFC Comments: Mr. Chuck Hillier is running for the Lake County Commissioner’s seat vacated by Mr. Jason Wuliger. Why is that important to know that Chuck Hillier works for Lubrizol Corporation, one of the largest employers in Lake County, Ohio?

Here are some additional interesting facts that many Lake County citizens may not know. (See if you can pick up a pattern)

(1) The Lake County Ohio Port and Economic Development Authority (Port Authority) was created in February 2007 to promote projects that will provide for the creation of jobs and employment opportunities and improve the economic welfare of the people residing in Lake County. Their website: lcport.org/port

(2) This is John Uhran, the current Vice-Chair of the Lake County Port Authority

Mr. Uhran is Senior Director Government Affairs at The Lubrizol Corporation

(3) This is Eric Schnur. On June 1, 2016 he became the CEO of Lubrizol Corporation.

He served on the Port Authority from 2011 – 2016.He left the Port Authority Board when he became CEO of Lubrizol Corporation.

(4) Painesville Township trustees approved a 10-year, 50 percent tax abatement enterprise zone for Lubrizol that will be available to the company until 2027.  Chuck Hillier, as a Painesville Township Trustee had to abstain from voting on the issue. It is not mentioned in the article if Mr. Hillier declined to total absent himself from any discussion on the topic.

Here is the News-Herald article that reported the transaction.

https://www.news-herald.com/news/ohio/lubrizol-taabatement-approved-by-painesville-township-trustees/article_8ea303d2-5bba-52cf-8948-54e944418b81.html

Lubrizol tax abatement approved by Painesville Township trustees

by Andrew Cass Apr 7, 2015 Updated Sep 27, 2018

Excerpts from the article:

Lubrizol is set to break ground on its $28 million project expanding its Painesville Township site later this month and will now have a tax abatement to go along with it.

Painesville Township trustees have approved a 10-year, 50 percent tax abatement enterprise zone for Lubrizol that will be available to the company until 2027.  

At their previous meeting, the trustees had approved the same tax abatement, but it would have only been available to through 2025. That resolution was retracted and replaced April 7.  Painesville Township Administrator Mike Manary said the change was made to accommodate Lubrizol’s construction schedule.

‘They requested that we expand the period another two years because the tax abatement does not begin until building is finished with construction and they were concerned that they would not be finished with all their construction in 2015,’ Manary said.

Both the retraction of the previous abatement and the approval of the updated abatement were approved 2-0.

Trustee Chuck Hillier abstained from voting because he is a Lubrizol employee.

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(5) The Ohio Revised Code section 5709.62 allows the establishment of Enterprise Zones in a community. The Lake County Commissioners must give final approval if a municipality or the Port Authority establishes an Enterprise Zone.

The Lake County Commissioners approved a 10-year, 50-percent tax abatement enterprise zone for an expansion project at Lubrizol’s Wickliffe headquarters.

https://www.news-herald.com/news/ohio/lake-county-commissioners-approve-tax-abatement-for-lubrizol-project/article_d4086d97-d382-54f6-98a2-d3d72e26fb7c.html

Excerpts from the article:

“The expansion will include a fitness center, conferencing center and cafeteria. No new jobs at Lubrizol are directly tied to the project….”

“The abatement starts in 2020 and expires Dec. 31, 2029.”

“Approval from the commissioners was the final step needed for the project to move forward. The city of Wickliffe approved the abatement at a council meeting in March.”

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LFC Comments: To comply with ORC section 5709.68, it requires that annual reports must be submitted on all tax abatement agreements currently in place to the municipal corporations.

Our concern is that there may be a conflict of interest created if the County Commissioners are called on to vote for any renewals or new tax abatement requests by Lubrizol Corporation. Mr. Hillier would need to recuse himself from voting on the issue, and should not even be involved in the discussions to influence the vote of the other two commissioners.

However, recusal could still be a problem for Mr. Hillier. Here are Jason Wuliger’s exact words used in his explanation to the Lake County citizens why he must resign:

“The laws make it clear that in many instances recusal would not be enough to avoid violating the law. In fact, violating these laws, which I would never do intentionally, could trigger penalties of up to 18 months in prison for each offense.”

Jason Wuliger

Wuliger had to resign his Commissioner’s seat because of a conflict of interest. Mr. Scott Marn had to pull out of the Commissioner’s race to replace Mr. Wuliger because of a conflict of interest. It would be a very uncomfortable position for the Lake County Republican Party if Mr. Hillier had to recuse himself from voting on issues in which he had a conflict of interest.

To the Lake County Republican Central Committee – how many “conflicts of interests” or recusals are you willing to accept?

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Categories: Lake, Ohio Counties, Uncategorized

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