Ginther Denies Taking Bribes From Red Light Camera Company
Democratic Columbus City Council president and Mayoral candidate Andy Ginther denies accepting bribes from the company that operates the city's traffic enforcement camera system. In a written statement issued through his campaign late Friday, the former Columbus City Schools board member said he had absolutely no knowledge of these activities and did not take part in them. He says he fully cooperated with a request to provide records and will continue to assist with the federal probe. Ginther also requested the city attorney conduct a full investigation of current contracts between Columbus and Arizona-based Redflex. On Friday, Federal prosecutors announced former Redflex CEO Karen Finley pleaded guilty to her role in a scheme to bribe elected officials in Columbus and Cincinnati in exchange for obtaining or maintaining municipal contracts. Two sources with knowledge of the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity, tell WCBE the government has subpoenaed Ginther and one of his campaign officials, and are asking the Ohio Democratic Party, which according to court documents funneled the bribe from Redflex representative and veteran City Hall lobbyist John Raphael to Ginther, for its records. Raphael, a former City Council aide, made news in 2007 when he made a personal loan to then-Council member Hearcel Craig, who chaired the committee that oversees the camera program. The Ohio Ethics Commission declined to issue punishments in the case. Court documents and campaign finance records obtained by WCBE show three payments to city officials. In one case, Raphael was standing with an elected official who said "thanks" when Raphael got an email from Redflex saying a 5 thousand dollar campaign contribution was being sent. In September 2011, a Ginther campaign official sent Redflex an email asking about a 20 thousand dollar contribution, and referenced a prior conversation between Ginther and a Redflex official. Documents show in mid October of that year, Redflex gave Raphael a 20 thousand dollar “success fee.” A week later, Raphael donated 20 thousand to the Ohio Democratic Party. The next month, the party gave Ginther 21 thousand dollars. In 2010, Ginther's Council approved an unbid contract renewal with Redflex and added nearly two dozen new cameras to the system. Documents show Raphael also funneled money through the Franklin County Democratic Party in October 2009. The documents do not name what other city officials were involved. Finley was indicted in 2014 for a similar scheme involving Chicago's traffic camera system. Columbus is one of several Ohio cities challenging a state law that took effect last year limiting how municipalities may use such systems. Elected officials say the systems improve public safety. Critics say they are municipal money-grabs. Ginther is running for Mayor against Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott, who's campaign has yet to comment.