April 30, 2016

Partly sunny

Former chief deputy recorder has record sealed

Phil Betleski

Phil Betleski

ELYRIA — A visiting judge on Friday agreed to seal the felony conviction of former Lorain County Chief Deputy Recorder Phil Betleski for theft in office.

Betleski, 57, did not attend the hearing before Visiting Judge Charles Wittenberg, but his attorney, Doug Merrill, read a letter the former Lorain Councilman had written.

Betleski wrote that he has had difficulty finding work since he pleaded guilty to theft in office in 2009 for taking more vacation time than he was entitled to while working for the county.

He wrote that after he was convicted he briefly worked for the U.S. Census Bureau and received training in geographic information science and truck driving but still has been unable to find a steady job and remains unemployed. He also added that he hasn’t gotten in trouble with the law since he was convicted.

“I have been a dependable, honest citizen since sentencing,” Betleski wrote.

But Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Allan Regas argued against expunging Betleski’s record, saying the public and future employers had a right to know about his crimes.

“This should not be shrouded from scrutiny going forward,” he said.

Betleski abruptly resigned from his job on July 28, 2008, after an argument with county Recorder Judy Nedwick over him taking a scheduled vacation while she was out of the office. While he was off, digital photos and videos that were “personal in nature” were found on his work computer.

Although Betleski wasn’t charged in connection with the images, his replacement found that Betleski had begun to award himself an extra week’s vacation in 2004.

The investigation determined that he took an extra 150 hours off during his time with Nedwick’s office and was paid $6,221 for 197 unused vacation hours when he resigned. He also cashed out 1,000 unused sick hours worth $31,500 when he left, although he was legally entitled to the money.

After pleading guilty, he was placed on probation and ordered to repay the county $5,599.

Regas said after the hearing that while he respected Wittenberg’s ruling, he disagreed with the decision and will likely appeal.

Betleski, who now lives in Seattle, is the brother of Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski and the son of the late Judge Adrian Betleski.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.

About Brad Dicken

Brad Dicken is the senior writer for the Chronicle-Telegram. He covers courts and county government, and has been with the Chronicle since 2001. He can be reached at 329-7147 or BDicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter.