October 1, 2014

Elyria
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County calls in prosecutor for Lilly probe

Former judge has been under investigation since January

ELYRIA — A special prosecutor has been brought in to investigate allegations that former Domestic Relations Judge Paulette Lilly misused county resources while she was in office.
Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will asked Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason to have one of his assistant prosecutors look into the allegations earlier this month, said Wendy Clawson, a spokeswoman for Mason.
Will declined to comment Thursday on the status of the investigation.
Sheriff’s Capt. Richard Resendez has been investigating Lilly since January, when Jim Maschari, bailiff and campaign manager for Domestic Relations Judge David Berta, who unseated Lilly in November, turned over information about Lilly’s use of county vehicles, which he’d gathered during the campaign.
Maschari’s material focused on whether Lilly attended meetings of a privacy subcommittee she served on for the Ohio Supreme Court in 2004 when she signed out a county car. Lilly has said she was in Columbus on official business at the time.
Maschari also questioned why Lilly stayed two extra days at a 2005 conference on courthouse security in Williamsburg, Va., but Lilly has said she stayed with a friend, saving the county money on hotel and airfare because she flew on off-peak days.
But the investigation expanded in March when Resendez began looking at whether Lilly used county-owned laptop computers for personal business and whether she had county computer workers come to her Avon Lake home to repair them.
Lilly has said the only personal business for which she used her county-issued computer was checking personal e-mails because she also received e-mails dealing with court business on the same account. The only time she had county computer workers come to her home were two times when she had difficulty connecting to the courthouse over the Internet, she has said.
Resendez declined to comment on the investigation, and Lilly, a Republican who has called the investigation politically motivated, did not return calls seeking comment.
This isn’t the first time a special prosecutor has looked into Lilly’s affairs.
Medina County Prosecutor Dean Holman cleared Lilly of allegations that she hadn’t witnessed every signature on petitions she circulated to get one of her magistrates to run against Common Pleas Judge Edward Zaleski.
Holman was appointed only after a bitter battle between Will and Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski over whether Betleski was right to appoint his own special prosecutor because of concerns he had over Will’s objectivity in the case.
Will’s brother-in-law served as Lilly’s bailiff, but Will said he had reviewed the case and had the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office review the case before the decision was made not to pursue it. That decision prompted Betleski to name his own special prosecutor at the request of his then-grand jury Foreman David Wargo.
Betleski’s special prosecutor was removed after the deal was struck to have Holman review it.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.