State treasurer candidate faced legal questions around money

State treasurer candidate faced legal questions around money
Posted at 12:30 PM, Oct 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-03 15:02:41-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Democratic treasurer candidate Rob Richardson twice in the past faced legal questions about his handling of money, an Associated Press review of court filings shows.

Hamilton County records show Richardson's wife at the time accused the Cincinnati attorney of setting up a private bank account to shield a work bonus of over $100,000 from her shortly before their 2015 divorce. Court documents show the candidate also was sued for breach of contract in a 2004 mortgage deal. His campaign said allegations against him were unsubstantiated in both cases.

Richardson faces state Rep. Robert Sprague, a Findlay Republican, this fall in the race to succeed Republican Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, who is term-limited.

In 2015, Mahlet Richardson told the court her husband's income as a lawyer had "historically" been deposited into a joint account, but it wasn't in the case of his nearly $102,000 bonus.

"Plaintiff did not tell me that he had received this fee or that he had used the funds to open an individual account until I asked him directly," she said in an affidavit. "I asked the Plaintiff to add me to the new account, but Plaintiff ultimately declined to do so."

Campaign spokesman William Montague said his wife's allegation against Rob Richardson was not proven. Phone messages left with her and her divorce attorney were not returned.

"The claim that these were 'joint funds' or placed improperly outside his ex-wife's reach is unsubstantiated, given that he had the right to have his own account while married," Montague said. "That money was taken into account in the divorce settlement, and Rob's ex-wife received a percentage of it."

In November 2004, the owners of a property Richardson was lined up to purchase alleged that he misled Wells Fargo about his job status at a local law firm in order to secure a loan. The financing later fell through and, court filings show, the couple had to take out a second loan to cover the shortfall. A message left with the homeowners was not returned.

Montague said Richardson, then a third-year law student, decided against pursuing the home purchase after encountering trouble with his financing. But he said the allegation that Richardson misled the bank was "unfounded" and "never substantiated."

"It's true Rob decided not to pursue alternate financing after his initial loan was denied," Montague said. "This was due simply to the financial burden a high interest mortgage would have put on him. Rob and the seller resolved the breach of contract with a settlement of several thousand dollars."

Breach of contract claims are not particularly rare. A review of Hamilton County court activity from 2008, the oldest year available online, showed about 70 to 130 such claims were filed each month.

However, Sprague said the AP's reporting "raises some legitimate questions and concerns considering the office he is seeking."

"Ohioans' tax dollars are on the line," he wrote in a text message. "It's critical that the next Treasurer is someone who is trustworthy, ethical and who will be a good steward of Ohio's finances."