Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder didn’t really call on indicted state Warren County Rep. Peter Beck to resign last July — it was more of a suggestion, he said.
Beck and a business partner, John Fussner, are accused of fleecing investors in a technology startup called Christopher Technologies out of $200,000. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Republican, said in a July press conference that Beck and a business partner John Fussner deceived investors about the company’s financial picture when soliciting them for money.
“I don’t think I really asked him to resign. I suggested that he should consider that in view of his family,” Batchelder told reporters Tuesday.
Batchelder, a former judge, in a recorded interview published by Ohio Capital Blog called attention to the complexities of the securities fraud case against Beck, a Mason Republican and CPA.
He contrasted the case against Beck with those against former Reps. Clayton Luckie, of Dayton, and W. Carlton Weddington, of Columbus. Both former Democratic lawmakers stepped down from office last year and received prison sentences after being convicted of crimes.
“I would certainly not suggest it was anything like the other two individuals we’ve lost in this session where it was pretty clear that those circumstances were very clearly criminal in nature. And there’s no such feeling here,” Batchelder said.
Batchelder’s comments seem to be a departure from a statement he issued calling for Beck’s resignation on July 19, the same day Beck was indicted on 16 felony counts in Hamilton County. Batchelder raised eyebrows when he appointed Beck to a summer legislative panel studying Ohio tax law about two weeks later.
In the July statement, Batchelder said Beck had served honorably, but “given the serious nature of the charges facing Rep. Beck, it is my belief that it is in the best interest of the Ohio House, the people of his district, and his family for him to resign from the Ohio House at this time.”
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges also a statement on July 19 that said: “Speaker Batchelder is correct to ask Representative Beck to step down. I join the Speaker in asking Representative Beck to resign.”
Despite his latest comments, Batchelder stands by his July statement, spokesman Mike Dittoe said in an email Wednesday.
“I believe the speaker was merely trying to convey yesterday that ultimately, the decision to resign is up to Representative Beck,” Dittoe said.
Beck is fighting the charges and and won’t resign, his attorney has said. He continues to chair the House Ways and Means Committee.
When Beck and Fussner were indicted, DeWine said more charges will be filed and the investigation is ongoing.
Katie Hanson, a spokeswoman for DeWine’s office, said Wednesday she could not comment on any possible additional charges.
Beck and Fussner are set to appear in court before Common Pleas Judge John West on Sept. 19. The case could drag on for months; both have waived their rights to a speedy trial.
A related $1.2 million civil lawsuit against Beck and others filed by Christopher Technologies investors has been stayed until Jan. 21.