By Will E Sanders
TROY — Miami County Commissioner John “Bud” O’Brien “lied” to the county prosecutor during a 2012 investigation stemming from Hobart building HVAC contract issues, though not to the level of criminal liability, a recently released legal finding reveals.
O’Brien, a Republican, “clearly gave a false statement” when “he lied to former Prosecuting Attorney Gary Nasal,” but “that false statement alone is insufficient probable cause to give rise to criminal liability,” wrote Clark County Prosecutor Andrew Wilson, a Republican, who was charged with investigating the case after Miami County authorities recused themselves. Wilson’s report was issued March 28.
In his conclusion, Wilson wrote there was insufficient probable cause that O’Brien “committed the crimes of falsification or obstructing official business.”
“In October of 2012, Commissioner O’Brien made a false statement to (then) Prosecuting attorney Gary Nasal with respect to whether or not the county had Waibel ‘Logix’ system as part of the Hobart building HVAC project,” Wilson concluded in his legal analysis. “However, the false statement alone is insufficient to give rise to criminal liability in this matter. Therefore, there is not sufficient probable cause to pursue criminal charges against Commissioner O’Brien.”
O’Brien’s false statement concerned a 2012 sheriff’s investigation into the mishandling and bypassing of the competitive bidding process for some county projects that totalled millions of dollars over several years. That investigation ultimately led to the conviction of a former county facilities manager and Troy councilman Jarrod Harrah, who was sentenced to one year in prison for theft in office.
The Miami County Sheriff’s Office began investigating Harrah in the spring of 2012 and as a part of that investigation interviewed all three county commissioners, including O’Brien. Specifically, the investigation looked into upgrades and repairs between Waibel Energy Systems and Miami County, and a $2.45 million contract related to HVAC upgrades and repairs. Subsequently, the Ohio Ethics Commission also investigated the incident, but found insufficient evidence to support any violation of ethics laws, the report states.
During the investigation Nasal met with O’Brien in late October/early November of 2012 and asked the commissioner if the county had the Logix system, to which O’Brien stated he did not know if the county had the system, and that he would ask Chris Johnson, who at that time had recently taken over Harrah’s facilities director position, according to the report.
However, Johnson was later interviewed and he stated that in the first week of October, O’Brien pointed the system out to him while giving a tour of the Hobart building, and the investigation later found the Logix system “had actually been installed in July of 2012,” according to Wilson, who was the special prosecutor handling the case.
“There is sufficient probable cause to show that Commissioner O’Brien made a false statement to Prosecutor Nasal in late October of 2012 when he told Prosecutor Nasal he did not know whether or not the county had the ‘Logix’ system,” Wilson wrote in his legal analysis. “It is clear that at the time of this statement Commissioner O’Brien knew the county had the ‘Logix’ system because several weeks prior to making this statement he had given Chris Johnson a tour of the Hobart building where he pointed out the ‘Logix’ system.”
Wilson’s analysis of the case stated there was also “insufficient evidence to determine whether Commissioner O’Brien’s false statement was made for the purpose of misleading Prosecutor Nasal in the performance of his official functions.”
An incumbent county commissioner seeking re-election in the May 6 primary election, O’Brien has served as the chairman of the Miami County Republican Party since 2000.
O’Brien issued a written statement concerning the finding’s of Wilson’s report Tuesday and in it O’Brien said he was “saddened” by the release of the “inaccurate report designed solely to harm” his reputation. Furthermore, O’Brien stated the claim was “both untrue and demonstrates the political motivation of individuals who are engaged in last-minute dirty politics.”
“I have done nothing wrong and this report confirms that fact,” he said. “I look forward to a campaign that focuses on the positive changes we’ve made at the county during my time on the county commission and look forward to representing Miami County in another term.”
Will E Sanders may be reached at 773-2721 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall.