There are mixed reactions from Warren County political leaders to the news State Rep. Pete Beck has been indicted for securities fraud and theft.
The former mayor of Mason is facing a possible 102-year prison term if he is found guilty on 16 counts of securities fraud and theft. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced the grand jury indictments on Friday.
Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said people shouldn’t give any special weight to the fact DeWine’s office is co-prosecuting the case. It is merely a function of the fact state agencies were involved in the investigation, he said. However, the indictments do give the political system a black eye, Fornshell said.
“It’s disappointing when something like this happens to an elected officials because it takes away the trust that we have in those who are running our government, at whatever level,” he said. “So anytime you have a public official that is involved in potentially illegal conduct, that’s not good for, first and foremost, them…, but it also brings further distrust by the public on the government itself. It’s not good for our county or for our Party.”
Mason Councilman Victor Kidd said he is staunchly supporting his good friend.
“I really feel bad that the whole thing happened,” Kidd said. “I love Pete and just feel bad for him… I’ve talked to Pete several times and he vehemently maintains his innocence. I’m inclined to believe my friends when they tell me something.”
Beck was appointed to the statehouse after Sen. Shannon Jones succeeded Sen. Robert Schuler who died in 2009. At the time, local GOP leaders were fuming because they wanted Lebanon Councilman Jeff Monroe to go to Columbus. They surmised Beck got the nod because of his fund-raising abilities. He told the caucus he already had $180,000 to $200,000 in committed campaign dollars.
They complained to GOP House Speaker Bill Batchelder but said they never received a specific reason why Beck beat out Monroe. Batchelder called for Beck to resign on Friday, but Beck has refused because he says he has done nothing wrong. Warren County Commissioner Dave Young said he’d probably handle things differently.
“It is a tough situation for everybody involved…,” he said. “Would I stick around if all these issues were going on? Probably not, but that’s a personal decision.”
Commissioner Pat South said she is not surprised Beck would want to stand his ground, especially at this early stage. Since Beck’s attorney Konrad Kircher keeps saying there is much more to the story, South said Beck should stand his ground. But that’s a decision that at some point could be taken out of Beck’s hands, she said.
“His unwillingness to resign at this juncture is not a surprise,” South said. “I think should this start to pan out into months and months, the Ohio caucus may give him no choice.”
Warren County Democratic Chair Bethe Goldenfield said Beck has “damaged” the public’s trust in government.
“It’s a shame that Rep. Beck is refusing to resign, as other state officials have done, under the same circumstances,” she said. “This refusal is a disservice to his constituents and his colleagues. Under the circumstances, it seems obvious that it will be impossible for Rep. Beck to effectively perform his legislative duties amidst the controversy and distraction of being under indictment, while concurrently mounting his legal defense.”
Mason Mayor and head of the county GOP David Nichols called Beck’s situation “very unfortunate” and the criminal charges “serious.”
“But last time I checked, Rep. Beck or anybody else, you’re innocent until proven guilty in this country,” he said.