September 18, 2014

Elyria
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Ex-commissioner avoids jail


Court: Michael Ross must still pay more than $1,000 by Sept. 30

ELYRIA — Former county Commissioner Michael Ross avoided prison Friday for failing to pay child support to two of his children, but that could change if he doesn’t pay some of the back support by Sept. 30.

CHUCK HUMEL / CHRONICLE
Former Commissioner Michael Ross (right) appears in court Friday with attorney Ken Ortner.

Domestic Relations Judge Debra Boros said she would send Ross to prison for a year if he fails to pay more than $1,000 in child support to the county’s Child Enforcement Agency. Ross also will be on probation for five years.

Assistant County Prosecutor Freddie Springfield said Ross consistently made payments during his time as a county commissioner, but fell behind after losing his job.

Ken Ortner, Ross’ attorney, said his client remained active in his children’s lives and paid for things such as school clothes, but simply couldn’t afford the monthly support anymore.

“He doesn’t have the money, judge; he doesn’t have a job,” Ortner said.

Ross left office at the end of 2000 after being defeated in his re-election bid, but prosecutors contend that during his four years in office, he steered county business toward friends and colleagues — including manipulating who received contracts for the construction of the county Justice Center — and took kickbacks for his help.

He is awaiting trial on those charges.

A jury convicted Ross, 42, of two counts of nonsupport of dependents in May but cleared him of two additional nonsupport charges.
Boros told Ross that his not knowing the exact amount of support and when it was due every month didn’t bode well for his effort.

“You should know the exact amount by now,” she said. “And you should know when to pay it.”

Boros denied Ross’ request to transfer his probation to his current residence in Georgia until he could prove he could make consistent payments.

She also demanded that he pay $2,500 in fines and more than $22,000 in restitution within a year.

“I’m prepared to live up to that commitment,” Ross said.

Contact Stephen Szucs at 336-4016 or sszucs@chroniclet.com.