Republicans sue own party chairman, claim millions in missing funds

By: - December 2, 2021 12:40 am

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Members of the Ohio Republican Party are suing the leader of their party and accusing him of being responsible for $3 million in “missing funds.”

The lawsuit was filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court against ORP Chairman Robert Paduchik and party treasurer Dave Johnson. Five individuals identified as donors and members of the ORP are listed as the parties leading the lawsuit: Denise Verdi, Mark Bainbridge, Laura Rosenberger, JoAnn Campbell and Joe Miller.

They were all also part of different ORP committees on topics such as fiscal review, audits, permanent rules and revisions, endorsement policy and county chairs.

Plaintiffs said they became aware of “potential financial improprieties, potential inaccurate financial reporting, the lack of an official audit … over more than a decade and unauthorized support of unendorsed candidates,” according to court documents.

“The millions of Republicans across our state deserve accountability and we are demanding it on their behalf,” said Rosenberger in a statement. “The Ohio Republican Party needs to be saved from within.”

The case centers around “significant funds” that the ORP members say went missing without “adequate explanation,” including $1.7 million in 2017, $437,000 in 2019, $271,000 in 2021 and $638,000 that the group claims was in an account established in 2017 and 2018 but was “written off” in 2021.

When the individuals voiced their concerns in October 2021, they say Paduchik removed them from their committee positions, in violation of ORP bylaws.

“Per the bylaws, Paduchik should not have reorganized the membership in (State Central Committee) or other committees until after the 2022 primary election and after the new (committee) members elected in that primary are installed,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit accuses Johnson of breaching his duty as treasurer by “maintaining un-auditable books,” “failing to require annual audits and compliance with the bylaws,” and “failing to run the operations of the finance and treasury in compliance with the bylaws, in bad faith,” among other accusations related to signing off on financial statements and checks.

The ORP members say a commissioned compliance report in 2017 found that the ORP books have not been audited for “at least 12 years,” and requests made by the plaintiffs in the case to examine the books were denied by Johnson.

Citing Ohio Revised Code, the lawsuit said Paduchik had a “duty to perform the duties of a director ‘in good faith, in a manner the director reasonably believes to be in or not opposed to the best interests of the corporation, and with the care that an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would use under similar circumstances.'”

In a letter to fellow Republicans obtained by Cleveland.com, Paduchik called the accusations “crazy,” singling out Bainbridge, who he said was attempting to “damage” the state central committee.

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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.

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