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OFFICE OF DISCIPLINARY COUNSEL

THE SUPREME COURT OF OHIO

J. WHITFIELD LARRABEE, )
Complainant )
)
v. )
)
RICHARD MICHAEL DEWINE )
Respondent )
)

COMPLAINT/GRIEVANCE

PARTIES

1. Respondent Richard Michael Dewine (“Mike DeWine”) is currently the Attorney General
of Ohio. His office is located at 30 East Broad Street, 14th Floor, Columbus, OH 43215.
He was elected attorney General in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014. He is also the
candidate of the Republican Party for Governor of Ohio. He is a licensed attorney in the
State of Ohio.

2. Complainant J. Whitfield Larrabee, of 251 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA 02446, is an


attorney licensed to practice law in Massachusetts.

MIKE DEWINE VIOLATED RULE 8.4(f) BY ASSISTING


HIS SON, JUSTICE PAT DEWINE, IN CONDUCT THAT IS
IN VIOLATION OF THE OHIO CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT

3. During the time period that Mike DeWine has been the Attorney General of Ohio, his
son, R. Patrick DeWine (“Pat DeWine”), has been an Ohio judge. He first served as a
judge on the Common Pleas Court in Hamilton County, then on the First District Court of
Appeals and now on the Supreme Court of Ohio.

4. During the time period that Mike DeWine has been the Attorney General of Ohio,
attorneys working for Mike DeWine’s office have appeared before Pat DeWine in
hundreds of cases, including numerous cases before the Supreme Court of Ohio.

5. Pat DeWine has allowed Mike DeWine to use his image on the Attorney General’s
website and on the “DeWine for Governor” Facebook page highlighting the judge’s
political support for his father and leaving the impression that he is endorsing his father’s
candidacy for Governor.

6. The Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct requires that a judge disqualify himself or herself in a
proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
7. There are good grounds to question the impartiality of Pat DeWine in cases involving the
Attorney General’s office based on the close familial and political relationship between
Mike DeWine and Pat DeWine.

8. On January 30, 2018, Special Disciplinary Counsel filed a multi-count complaint against
Pat DeWine describing violations of the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct related to Pat
DeWine’s failure to recuse himself from cases involving the Attorney General’s office
and for other violations implicating the Attorney General’s office. A copy of the Special
Disciplinary Counsel’s amended complaint, without attachments, is submitted herewith
and is incorporated by reference. The complaint and attachments can be downloaded:
http://supremecourt.ohio.gov/bpccm/Case?caseId=23e73a74-dcdb-432c-ad36-8978d4ab9
f55

9. Pat DeWine was required by the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct to recuse himself in all
cases where a member of the Attorney General’s office was appearing as counsel or was
filing an Amicus Brief. Pat DeWine repeatedly violated the Ohio Code of Judicial
Conduct throughout the time period that Mike DeWine has been the Ohio Attorney
General by participating as a judge in cases involving the Attorney General’s office.

10. It is a violation of Rule 8.4 (f) of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct for a lawyer to
“knowingly assist a judge or judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of
the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, the applicable rules of judicial conduct, or other
law.”

11. Mike DeWine was aware of Pat DeWine’s duty to recuse. By failing to request that Pat
DeWine recuse himself in hundreds of cases where a member of the Attorney General’s
office was appearing as counsel or was filing an Amicus Brief, and by using Pat
DeWine’s image on the Attorney General’s website and on the “DeWine for Governor”
Facebook, Mike DeWine knowingly assisted Pat DeWine in conduct that is a violation of
Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct as described in this complaint and in the complaint of the
Special Disciplinary Counsel.

12. It is a violation of Rule 8.4 (d) of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct for a lawyer to
“engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.” It is prejudicial to
the administration of justice when a judge participates in judicial proceedings involving
the Office of the Attorney General where his or her impartiality is reasonably to be
questioned.

13. By remaining silent and failing to direct his subordinates to request that Pat DeWine
recuse himself from cases involving the Attorney General’s office, Mike DeWine
engaged in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice violation of Rule 8.4
(d). Mike DeWine took advantage of an unjust and improper privilege of having his
close relative and political ally serve as a judge in a case effecting his office and his
political interests. Any ruling that Pat DeWine made against the Attorney General’s
office would potentially reflect badly on his father and could harm is father’s political
ambitions and political campaigns. Any ruling that Pat DeWine made in favor of the

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Attorney General’s office would potentially reflect favorably on his father and could his
father’s political ambitions and political campaigns. Pat DeWine would naturally be
reluctant to rule against his father as news media could then report on such a legal
conflict between son/judge and father/AG/Candidate for Governor. Mike DeWine knew
this and knowingly accepted the improper benefit of having his son sit on cases involving
the Attorney General’s office.

14. Opposing parties to clients represented by the Attorney General office, and the attorneys
representing the opposing parties, put themselves at risk of retaliation if they request that
Pat DeWine recuse himself from their cases. Pat DeWine has publicly claimed that he is
not obligated to recuse in cases involving the Attorney General’s office. If parties request
Pat DeWine to recuse himself and he declines to do so, they are then vulnerable to
retaliation by the judge. Furthermore, they risk exacerbating any bias that Pat DeWine
has in favor of his brother’s office by requesting recusal. In failing to request Pat DeWine
to recuse himself in every case involving the Attorney General’s office, Mike DeWine
systematically takes advantage of opposing parties and their lawyers. In doing so, Mike
DeWine engages in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.

MIKE DEWINE TOOK BRIBES, VIOLATED THE OHIO ETHICS LAW AND
VIOLATED RULE 8.4 BY ABUSING THE AUTHORITY OF THE ATTORNEY
GENERAL’S OFFICE, IMPROPERLY GRANTING CONTRACTS AND
IMPROPERLY PROVIDING PAID WORK TO CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTORS

15. Mike DeWine has improperly and corruptly traded contracts and lucrative work for the
Attorney General’s Office for campaign contributions, with the purpose to defraud the
State of Ohio, Ohio voters, Ohio taxpayers and Ohio residents, throughout his terms as
Attorney General of Ohio in violation of the Ohio Ethics Law, including R.C. § 102.03
(D) and R.C. § 102.03 (E).

16. Mike DeWine has taken bribes throughout his terms as Attorney General of Ohio in
violation of R.C. § 2921.02 (B).

17. R.C. § 102.03 (D) provides:

No public official or employee shall use or authorize the use of the authority or
influence of office or employment to secure anything of value or the promise or
offer of anything of value that is of such a character as to manifest a substantial
and improper influence upon the public official or employee with respect to that
person's duties.

18. R.C. § 102.03 (E) provides:

No public official or employee shall solicit or accept anything of value that is of


such a character as to manifest a substantial and improper influence upon the

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public official or employee with respect to that person's duties.
19. Ohio’s Bribery Statute, R.C. § 2921.02, provides in relevant part:

(B) No person, either before or after the person is elected, appointed, qualified,
employed, summoned, or sworn as a public servant or party official, shall
knowingly solicit or accept for self or another person any valuable thing or
valuable benefit to corrupt or improperly influence the person or another public
servant or party official with respect to the discharge of the person's or the other
public servant's or party official's duty.

20. As Attorney General, Mike DeWine has the authority to grant contracts and refer work to
private lawyers and collection companies to recover debt owed to the State of Ohio
and/or to engage in litigation on behalf of the State of Ohio.

21. Under contracts granted by Mike DeWine, collection contractors are paid a percentage of
the amount they collect -- up to 30% of the amount recovered in some cases.

22. On June 25, 2018, the Ohio Center for Investigative Journalism (“OCIJ”) published a
report by James McNair concerning Mike DeWine’s contracting with individuals who
own or operate collection companies or law firms and who also make political
contributions to Mike DeWine, Pat DeWine and their Republican allies in Ohio.1 See the
OCIJ Report, attached hereto as Exhibit “A.” There are useful interactive graphics that
can be viewed on the OCIJ’s website are not viewable in the printed attachment.

23. OCIJ reports that Mike DeWine’s office has paid law firms and collection contractors
over $300 million in fees during Mike DeWine’s tenure as Attorney General.

24. The OCIJ report and the records of the Ohio Secretary of State show that, in general, the
more campaign contributions contractors give to Mike DeWine, Pat DeWine and their
Republican allies, the more lucrative collections work they receive from Mike DeWine’s
office.

25. On July 19, 2014, the Dayton Daily News published a report by Laura Bischoff regarding
Mike DeWine’s granting of lucrative collection contracts to vendors who made campaign
contributions to Mike DeWine, Pat DeWine and the Ohio Republican Party.2 See Exhibit

1
McNair, James, Unlike Neighboring States, Ohio Lacks Transparent, Merit Process,
For Debt Collection Outsourcing; Campaign Contributors Much More Likely To Get Contracts,
Ohio Center For Investigative Reporting, June 25, 2018 http://eyeonohio.com/ag_collections/
2
Bischoff, Laura, Vendors gave big to DeWine, GOP Ohio AG denies politics played
role in awarding lucrative collections contracts, Dayton Daily News July 19, 2014
https://www.mydaytondailynews.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/vendors-gave-big-dewi
ne-gop/ZMEcHuU1e1xFhYKACN7pJP/

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“B,” attached.
26. The OCIJ and Dayton Daily News investigations and reports, and based on public records
kept by the Ohio Secretary of State, provide substantial evidence showing that Mike
DeWine and his agents corruptly award contracts and dole out collections work to
contractors in exchange for campaign contributions to Mike DeWine, Ohio Supreme
Court Justice Pat DeWine, the Summit County Republican Central Committee State
Candidate Fund and the Ohio Republican State Central & Executive Committee State
Candidate Fund. The OCIJ and the Dayton Daily News reports show that Mike DeWine
and his agents have denied and failed to renew contracts of attorneys and collection
agents that did not give sufficient campaign contributions/kickbacks to him, Pat DeWine
& their Republican allies.

27. By giving out contracts with the State of Ohio in exchange for campaign contributions,
and by taking away contracts from individuals who do not pay out sufficient campaign
contributions, Mike Dewine has defrauded Ohio taxpayers, voters and residents of his
honest services, he has exceeded and abused the authority of his office to award contracts
and he has defrauded taxpayers, voters and residents of the funds paid out to dishonest
contractors. This dishonest, improper, fraudulent and corrupt scheme included bribery
and violation of the Ohio Ethics law.

28. Mike DeWine has falsely and fraudulently denied that he awards contracts based on
campaign contributions. Any statutes of limitations applicable to the allegations in this
complaint are tolled due to Mike DeWine’s fraudulent concealment of his illegal scheme
and due to ongoing and continuing nature of the criminal and unethical scheme.

29. There is significant evidence that Mike DeWine accepted bribes and violated the Ohio
Ethics Law in addition to the evidence that he awarded contracts and work to the highest
contributors.

30. On information and belief, Mike DeWine granted contracts to major contributors
simultaneously or in very close proximity in time to when he accepted large contributions
from contractors. The granting of contracts in close proximity to the payment of
contributions is evidence that the contracts were corruptly granted in exchange for the
contributions.

31. Mike DeWine awarded a large contract to a completely unqualified and inexperienced
company that made massive campaign contributions while simultaneously denying a
lucrative contract to a seasoned and well qualified contractor. Awarding of a contract to
an unqualified and inexperienced contractor who made large contributions while denying
a contract to a well performing and experienced contractor who contributed far less is
evidence that the contracts were corruptly granted in exchange for the contributions.

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32. According to the OCIJ and the Dayton Daily News reports, Value Recovery Group was a
contractor for five attorneys general and had some 20 years of experience. The reports
provide evidence that, after a period of work as a contractor while Mike DeWine was
Attorney General, Mike DeWine denied the company a contract and excluded it from
lucrative collection work for the State of Ohio due to the failure of the Company and its
owners to pay sufficient contributions/kickbacks to Mike DeWine, Pat DeWine and his
Republican allies.

33. The Dayton Daily News report shows that, at the same time as Value Recovery Group
lost its contract, CELCO Ltd. was awarded a contract. CELCO Ltd. was formed on April
11, 2012 by Peter Spitalieri. CELCO Ltd. had no experience handling collections
accounts but was closely tied to Alex Arshinkoff, the head of the Summit County
Republican Party. After receiving his lucrative contract from Mike DeWine, Peter
Spitalieri and his wife, Celeste Spitalieri, paid about $100,000 in contributions/kickbacks
to the Summit County Republican Central Committee State Candidate Fund and the Ohio
Republican State Central & Executive Committee State Candidate Fund. According to
records of the Ohio Secretary of State, these payments were made between June of 2012
and December of 2017. According to the OCIJ and the Dayton Daily News reports, and
records of the Ohio Secretary of State, the Summit County Republican Central
Committee State Candidate Fund and the Ohio Republican State Central & Executive
Committee State Candidate Fund have acted as conduits, paying over $6 million dollars
to Mike DeWine’s campaign committee. The cancellation of the contract with Value
Recovery Group, a well performing vendor, in order to award the contract to an
unqualified and inexperienced vendor, is evidence that Mike DeWine made the change in
exchange for large political contributions made directly by the Spitalieris and indirectly
through other conduits including the Summit County Republicans and the Ohio State
Republicans.

34. The OCIJ report and the Dayton Daily News reports show that Charles A. Mifsud, II of
Dublin, Ohio, a contractor and attorney, received $17.6 million in collections
commissions/fees during Mike DeWine’s first six years in office. Records kept by the
Ohio Secretary of State show that Mifsud and his relatives paid hundreds of thousands of
dollars in campaign contributions/kickbacks to Mike DeWine, Pat DeWine and other
Republican allies of Mike DeWine during the time period that Mike DeWine has been
Attorney General. There is compelling evidence that Mifsud and his relatives paid these
contributions/kickbacks in exchange for lucrative contracts and collection work given by
Mike DeWine and his agents to Mifsud’s company(ies) or firms.

35. The Dayton Daily News reports that Mike DeWine’s calendar shows that on September
26, 2011, Mike DeWine met with Alex Arshinkoff, a well-connected lobbyist and
long-time chairman of the Summit County Republican Party, and David Myhal, who was
Mike DeWine’s 2010 campaign fundraiser to discuss collections. Myhal was the
registered lobbyist for attorney Charles Mifsud at the time of the report, according to the

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Dayton Daily News. Evidence of this meeting and multiple other lines of evidence show
that Mike DeWine had the motive and opportunity to corruptly exchange collection
contracts for campaign contributions, and that he in fact did repeatedly engage in such
corrupt exchanges.

36. The OCIJ report shows that Sue Pohler of Columbus, Ohio, a contractor and attorney,
received about $7,369,000 in collections commissions/fees during Mike DeWine’s first
six years. Records kept by the Ohio Secretary of State show that Pohler paid over
$140,000 to the Ohio Republican Party, including the Ohio Republican State Central and
Executive Committee State Account and Ohio Republican State Central & Executive
Committee State Candidate Fund, during the time period that Mike DeWine has been
Attorney General. Pohler has continued to make such contributions in 2017 and 2018.
The evidence set forth in the ICIJ report, the Dayton Daily News report and the records of
the Ohio Secretary of State show that these contributions/kickbacks were paid in
exchange for her lucrative contracts and collection work given by Mike DeWine and his
agents. The OCIJ report show that before Mike DeWine was elected Attorney General,
Pohler gave very little to the Ohio Republican Party. Based on records reviewed by
OCIJ, Pohler made five contributions to the party between 1990 and 2010, for a total of
$775. Pohler’s pattern of donations is strong evidence that her political contributions
were part of a corrupt quid pro quo scheme between Pohler, Mike DeWine and others.

37. Conditioning the award of contracts and lucrative collection work on the payment of
contributions/kickbacks constitutes economic coercion and extortion of contractors.
Contractors who are required to make political contributions/kickbacks in exchange for
contracts and collection work are harmed and deprived of the full value of their services.
The OCIJ and the Dayton Daily News reports, as well as the records of the Ohio
Secretary of State regarding contributions identified in those reports, are compelling
evidence that Mike DeWine engaged in economic coercion and extortion of contractors.

38. On May 27, 2014, Randy Ludlow of the Columbus Dispatch reported that Mike DeWine
took $359,000 in contributions from lawyers whose firms he wanted to hire to represent
state agencies and boards.3 See, Exhibit “C,” attached. On June 3, 2014, Julie Carr Smyth
of the Associated Press reported that Mike DeWine directed his staff to give special
counsel work to Mike DeWine’s campaign treasurer, Columbus attorney J. B. Hadden.4
See, Exhibit “D,” attached. The Associated Press, the Columbus Dispatch, the OCIJ and
the Dayton Daily News reports tend to show that Mike DeWine’s office handed out
contracts to Republican allies in a corrupt manner not only in the area of collections, but

3
Ludlow, Randy, DeWine criticized on legal contracts, Columbus Dispatch, May 27,
2014, http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/05/27/dewine-criticized-on-legal-
contracts.html
4
Smyth, Julie Carr, Ohio AG's $26M in outside lawyers comes under fire, Associated
Press, June 3, 2104, http://www.news-herald.com/article/HR/20140603/NEWS/140609839

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in other areas as well.
39. The OCIJ and the Dayton Daily News reports and the Ohio Secretary of State Records
show that Mike DeWine’s custom, policy and practice of illegally excluding contractors,
attorneys and collection agents from contracts and collection work with the Attorney
General’s Office likely continues to the present time.

40. The OCIJ and the Dayton Daily News reports and the Ohio Secretary of State Records
show that Mike DeWine has caused and continues to cause economic harm to companies,
attorneys and collection agents who are denied contracts and collection work because of
their failure to pay campaign contributions/kickbacks to Mike DeWine, Pat DeWine and
their Republican allies.

41. Mike DeWine’s scheme to economically coerce contractors to make campaign


contributions amounts to extortion, fraud and racketeering in violation of Ohio and
federal law. The scheme violates the free speech rights and associational rights of
contractors who are punished for not associating with Mike DeWine and others as
contributors and for not supporting the political speech of Mike DeWine, Pat DeWine
and their political allies.

42. By engaging in the conduct described in this complaint, Mike DeWine violated many
provisions of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, including but not limited to Rule
8.4 (a), Rule 8.4 (b), Rule 8.4 (c), Rule 8.4 (d), Rule 8.4 (e), Rule 8.4 (f) and Rule 8.4 (h).

WHEREFORE, the complainant respectfully requests the Office of Disciplinary Counsel


to fully investigate the facts and violations described in this complaint and that it duly,
expeditiously and properly enforce the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct.

Respectfully submitted,

______________________________
J. Whitfield Larrabee
Law Offices of J. Whitfield Larrabee
251 Harvard Street, Suite 9
Brookline, MA 02446
(617) 566-3670

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