Former Dayton firefighter David Harker was sentenced Friday to pay $2,000 in fines for accepting free golf, meals and other gratuities from Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund vendors. Harker, 47, a former pension fund trustee who had pleaded guilty to four first-degree misdemeanors, declined to comment following his appearance in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.
Three violations involved trips, gifts and gratuities worth thousands of dollars from companies the pension fund hired to help with its investments.
Harker received free air fare, lodging, meals and golf in Scotland, where his share of greens fees totaled $1,193. He also attended Ohio State University’s Fiesta Bowl championship game in 2003 in Arizona as the guest of an investment firm representative.
The fourth misdemeanor stemmed from Harker’s failure to report the gifts on his annual financial disclosure statements — the same violation Gov. Bob Taft committed when it came to dozens of golf games, meals and other items.
Harker served on the pension fund board from 1996 to 2003, including time as chairman.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said he may soon prosecute other pension fund officials, as well. Judge Richard C. Sheward, who sentenced Harker, said Harker is expected to cooperate on those future cases.
An Ohio Ethics Commission investigation found more than $230,000 worth of gifts and gratuities to fund trustees, staff members, relatives and friends between 1998 and 2003.
Ohio ethics laws prohibit public officials or their relatives from taking items of value from vendors and contractors, and prohibit those seeking to do business from giving gratuities.
Three investment vendors have paid the fund $185,724, plus another $60,000 to the Ohio Ethics Commission to defray its investigative costs. American Express Financial Corp. paid the pension fund $39,680, Northwinds Marketing Group LLC paid $84,320 and Lend Lease paid $61,724 as penalties for improperly wining and dining retirement system officials. Each also paid $20,000 to the ethics commission.
The ethics investigation began after the Dayton Daily News reported in September 2003 that Police and Fire Fund trustees had spent $612,451 on expenses and travel between 1998 and mid-2003.
Retired Dayton police Detective Thomas Bennett was sentenced in January to two years probation, 160 hour of community service and $3,500 in fines for violations he committed as a Police and Fire pension trustee.
Bennett also received a suspended six-month jail sentence and agreed to testify in future pension board cases. He pleaded guilty in November to felony theft and a misdemeanor ethics law violation.
Harker, a firefighter since 1978, received a disability pension from the Police and Fire board in January.