Port member reprimanded after deal

VIENNA – The Ohio Ethics Commission has issued a public reprimand of a Western Reserve Port Authority Board Member who profited by more than $97,000 from a public contract involving a port authority real estate transaction.

Port Authority board member and Realtor Scott Lewis represented Davis International in its 2009 sale of a cargo building on airport grounds.

According to an Ohio Ethics Commission document released Friday by the airport’s governing board, Lewis participated in port authority discussions about the port’s lease negotiations involving the property “through comments, discussion, email correspondence and attendance at meetings on several occasions on matters related to the ground lease agreement upon with the Davis International Building was located.” Records show he did abstain from the final port authority vote.

Ultimately, though, Lewis collected a real estate commission of $97,366 for the transaction. The information is included in a settlement agreement negotiated between the Ohio Ethics Commission and Lewis.

The probe had been under way since 2009, and was referred to the investigative authority’s settlement arm more than a year ago. The agreement was reached last week.

A message left seeking comment from Lewis at his office was not immediately returned Friday.

Lewis, who was appointed to his seat on the port authority by the Trumbull Commissioners in 2008, was renewed for a new four-year term in late 2012. Friday, Trumbull Commissioner Frank Fuda said he would discuss the ethics commission ruling with other the other commissioners next week and decide what, if any, action to take.

Messages left for the other commissioners were not immediately returned.

Port authority board member Don Hanni III was critical of the ethics commission’s decision, saying more serious repercussions were warranted.

“They should remove him from the board,” Hanni said. “They, in essence, say it’s OK if he had an unlawful interest in a public contract and he made $97,000. We are giving him a reprimand. Lewis sold the deal to the board. Then when the vote comes, he abstains.”

Port authority board chairman James Floyd was not as critical, calling the situation “unfortunate.”

“The members of the board respect and support Mr. Lewis’ decision to resolve this matter by entering into a settlement agreement with the commission, and we look forward to working with him in the years ahead,” Floyd said in a prepared statement.

He said he believed the situation would serve as a learning experience for the board, which will work to ensure nothing similar occurs in the future.

Floyd said the port authority cooperated in the investigation and said the port remains committed to “the highest possible ethical standards.