A former candidate for mayor of Newton Falls, an inspector for the Ohio Department of Commerce liquor control division, is accused of using a state vehicle for political business, accepting campaign contributions on state time and falsifying state activity reports and campaign contribution records.
The allegations are contained in a report released Thursday by Ohio's top watchdog.
The Inspector General found there is ''reasonable cause'' to think Gideon A. Fetterolf Jr. acted wrongly in his capacity as state compliance officer and candidate leading up the Nov. 8, 2011, election.
A telephone message was left and email sent seeking comment from Fetterolf.
According to the report, Fetterolf on Aug. 30, 2011, accepted a $1,000 check for his campaign from the owner of a convenience store in the village at the store. He did not report the meeting on a liquor control activity report. He also reported on his campaign finance report that the contribution was from another man at a false address, the report states.
Fetterolf did not inspect the store during this visit, but he did give the store manager a liquor control business card, the report states.
Also on state time using a state vehicle, Fetterolf, while conducting a renewal inspection of a BP store in Lordstown on Sept. 1, 2011, accepted a $500 cash contribution from the store owner and then on his campaign finance reports, reported that he made the contribution to his campaign, according to the report.
Election law prohibits cash contributions of more than $100.
The store owner told investigators he took the money to give Fetterolf from the cash drawer, ''but denied the contribution had any connection to the renewal inspection,'' the report states.
In addition, Fetterolf falsified his liquor control activity report to show he was traveling to Campbell on Oct. 12, 2011,when actually he was at the village police department to report that a campaign sign had been stolen. Also on that visit, after learning the sign had been seized because it was larger than allowed by zoning regulations, he complained to the zoning inspector about the sign being taken.
The report notes there is no ''allegation or evidence'' that Fetterolf asked for or accepted campaign contributions in return for approval of liquor permits.
''However, Fetterolf's acceptance of campaign contributions from vendors he inspected, even if done on his own personal time, creates an appearance of impropriety,'' the report states. ''Furthermore, Fetterolf's falsification or records for campaign contributions from liquor permit holders indicates he recognized there was an appearance of impropriety.''
Fetterolf on Dec. 16, 2011 - one day after he was supposed to be interviewed by an inspector general's investigator - filed amended campaign finance reports showing the correct contributor of the $1,000 check he received on Aug. 30, 2011, but still listed the wrong address, according to the report.
Fetterolf canceled the Dec. 15, 2011, interview on Dec. 14.
Also, he reported the $500 cash contribution from the other store owner, and on his final expenditure report, he reported he wrote a $500 check to the owner of the Lordstown BP to return the cash contribution and then accepted a check in the same amount from the man.
The state's investigation began in September when an FBI agent reported to the inspector general's office that a liquor control inspector allegedly accepted a campaign contribution from a liquor permit holder. That information was provided to the FBI by the village's police chief, the report states.
The investigative report will be forwarded to the Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office and the state's ethics and elections commission.
Fetterolf ran as a write-in candidate for mayor, ultimately losing the election by about 40 percent. He is now retired from the state.