From The Delaware Gazette:
Delaware County Commissioner Todd Hanks has resigned his job working as a part-time consultant for a local civil engineering firm, the Gazette has learned.
Hanks had been working part-time for Civil Engineering Consultants, a firm with specialties that include environmental studies and solid waste management, since shortly after being appointed to the county commission last January. Hank was slated to make a $50,000 annual salary, plus a commission based on work he referred to the company.
When asked by the Gazette, Hanks said he resigned from the position on Oct. 6.
“I felt it was in the best interest of the county,” Hanks said Thursday. He declined to elaborate, but said he arrived at the decision independently of his employer. A representative with CEC could not be reached for comment.
Hanks was county auditor when he was appointed to the county commission last January. He took a $14,000 pay cut to become a commissioner, and Hanks said he accepted the job with CEC to help make ends meet.
It is not illegal or particularly unusual for elected officials to hold an outside job, but ethics laws require elected officials to clearly separate their public and private work. A written opinion from the Ohio Ethics Commission said the law prohibits Hanks from representing CEC before any county agency or from using his influence as an elected official to benefit his employer.
However, a May meeting between Hanks, county officials, Village of Sunbury officials, State of Ohio officials and CEC representatives may have blurred the line between Hanks’ private and public jobs, legal sources have told the Gazette.
Hanks invited the CEC representatives to the meeting to try to find them work with a private landowner who was working with Sunbury on a redevelopment project.
Delaware County economic development director Gus Comstock had set the meeting up with the Sunbury village administrator, and Comstock discussed seeing if county revolving loan funds could be contributed toward the project. Neither the landowner nor the Sunbury officials knew Hanks worked for CEC until months later.
No county money was ultimately contributed to the project. Hanks has said he did nothing wrong, and pointed out that he abstained from votes from boards that he was sitting on that would affect CEC’s work for private contractors. CEC has not done business with Delaware County since August of 2008.
Although Hanks declined to explain his exact reason for resigning from CEC, an engineering and contracting source said attention prompted by Gazette articles was a factor in the decision.
Political pressure may have been a factor too — sources within the Delaware County Republican Party said Hanks’ employment led to “grumbling” and concern among some Republican party central committee members. Hanks is up for re-election next year and the county GOP will likely begin the endorsement process late this year, in advance of the May primary election.
Delaware County Democratic Party Chair Ed Helvey said even though Hanks has given up his private job, his party would make an issue out of Hanks’ former employer come election season.
Helvey said he thought Hanks’ employment with CEC inappropriately “collided head-on” with his authority as a county commissioner.
“It goes to the heart of his integrity and honesty as to why he’s an officeholder,” Helvey said. “Is he there to serve the people or is he there for personal gain?”