NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (January 18, 2023) – Dover’s longest serving mayor Richard Homrighausen on Tuesday was sentenced to pay more than $17,000 in fines, restitution, and court and investigation costs following his conviction on felony theft in office and five related offenses in November.
Through his attorney, Homrighausen maintained his innocence and promised to appeal. Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court Judge Elizabeth Thomakos issued a stay on the sentence, so Homrighausen won’t pay until the appeal is resolved.
Thomakos did not order a prison sentence but emphasized that the conviction on the charge of fifth-degree felony theft in office bars Homrighausen from serving as mayor or in any other public office.
“You are ordered to be forever disqualified from holding any public office, employment, or position of trust in this state,” she told Homrighausen, who was first elected Dover’s mayor in 1991.
The sentence includes $5,250 in fines, $9,295 in restitution to the city, and $2,665 dollars in investigation costs.
Homrighausen’s attorney Mark DeVan says he will reserve his right to remain silent throughout the appeal process.
The only thing Homrighausen said during the sentencing was “No” when Thomakos asked if he had anything to say.
Judge sides with prosecution on restitution amount
DeVan argued Homrighausen should only be fined $240 plus costs, as the jury convicted him of theft in office of less than $1,000.
Thomakos said the prosecution’s evidence showed Homrighausen pocketed more than $9,000 in wedding fees, so she ordered him to pay that money back to the city.
She also said the evidence convinced her Homrighausen knew he was in the wrong, even though the former mayor said he didn’t know he was committing a crime.
“Having listened to the evidence and hearing about the fee list being removed from the office when the auditor was around. Also, just some of the fallout – if people participated in the investigation (there was) the fear of retaliation – kind of belies that idea that you didn’t know,” Thomakos said.
Why no jail time?
The fact that Homrighausen did not get any prison time was not surprising to prosecutors. State Prosecutor Robert Smith had said probation was more likely.
Theft in office is a fifth-degree felony, the lowest category of felonies. The other offenses include four first-degree misdemeanors and one second-degree misdemeanor.
Thomakos Tuesday imposed the highest financial penalties available, but no prison or probation.
Prosecutor Sam Kirk did not explicitly request either, instead focusing on financial penalties and keeping Homrighausen out of office.
“Other than restitution and the audit costs, the other thing that was important to the state … is by virtue of the fact the defendant was found guilty of theft in office, he is forever barred from holding public office in the state of Ohio, and we would like that noted for the record,” Kirk said.
Homrighausen’s defense attorney Mark DeVan argued against prison.
“Frankly, what good would it do to incarcerate a 74-year-old man with no prior record? And it will not necessarily serve any purpose for the community or otherwise in this case,” he said.
Who is Dover’s mayor?
There was some confusion in Dover Tuesday about who was in charge after Tuesday’s sentencing. The conviction for theft in office disqualifies Homrighausen from serving in public office, and the city stopped paying him in November. He had been on paid suspension since April, with Shane Gunnoe filling the post in the interim.
Law Director Doug O’Meara Tuesday advised City Council to wait until all the paperwork is filed from Tuesday’s sentencing hearing before moving on from Homrighausen.
Gunnoe thought his time as mayor was up when Homrighausen was sentenced, but he was back in the mayor’s seat at Tuesday night’s Council meeting.
“It came as a surprise to me, as well,” he told Council. “It came as I was preparing to clean out my office.”
When the city does move on from Homrighausen, which could be in a matter of days, Council President Justin Perkowski will be acting mayor briefly until the Tuscarawas County Republican Central Committee appoints one to finish out Homrighausen’s term, which concludes at the end of the year.
City Law Director Doug O’Meara says an appeal won’t likely impact Homrighausen’s ban from office. Homrighausen has 30 days to file an appeal.