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Newburgh Heights mayor agrees to plead guilty to charges, will step down as mayor

Mayor Trevor Elkins arraigned Thursday, initially pleaded not guilty
Newburgh Heights Mayor Elkins at court.jpg
Posted at 4:30 PM, Mar 31, 2022

CLEVELAND — Newburgh Heights Mayor Trevor Elkins agreed to plead guilty to three misdemeanor charges in court Thursday after initially pleading not guilty in court Thursday morning. As part of his plea agreement, Elkins will step down from the office of mayor.

The change in plea comes after a hearing concerning election violations and "protracted plea negotiations," according to a news release from the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney.

The 49-year old mayor faces two counts of attempted election falsification and one count of attempted theft in office.

These first-degree misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a fine of $1,000.

As part of the plea agreement, Elkins will:

  • Step down from the office of mayor.
  • Shut down the Elkins Campaign Account for Mayor of Newburgh Heights.
  • Agree not to run for any Cuyahoga County elected office for the 2024-2028 term.
  • Agree not open any campaign finance accounts for the 2024-2028 term.

Any jail time that is imposed will be suspended for a period of five years' probation, and a $250 fine will be imposed for each charge. There will be no early release of probation without a hearing and notification to the prosecuting attorney, and Elkins may apply for record expungement as outlined in the Ohio Revised Code.

The charges come after a years-long investigation into Elkins' spending which resulted in the Ohio Elections Commission referring its findings to the Franklin County prosecutor's office last year.

The commission found Elkins committed over 651 violations of state campaign laws between 2015 and 2019.

Prosecutors said during those years, the mayor spent more than $134,000 from his campaign fund for personal use.

During an Elections Commission hearing last March, prosecutors said that spending included expenses at bars, restaurants and at least one hair salon.

"What this mayor has done is used his campaign account as a personal ATM," Senior Franklin County Prosecutor Brian Simms told commissioners during that March 2021 hearing.

But during that same hearing, Elkins told the commission the money didn't come from donors. Instead, the mayor said it was money that he put into the campaign account.

Elkins said he didn't realize it was illegal to co-mingle personal and campaign funds.

"It was a habit that developed," said Elkins. "It was a bad habit. There's not a good explanation for co-mingling and I've readily and forthrightly admitted that."

Elkins also told the commission that he repaid the money back to his campaign fund.

But Simms, the prosecutor who looked into the case, called that "inconsequential."

"It's like a bank robbery," said Simms. "You commit a bank robbery and you return to the bank and give them back their money. Well, guess what? You still committed a bank robbery."

Elkins attorney, Jim McDonnell, did not want to comment on the case after court Thursday.

Following the filing of charges, Elkins said "There will be an appropriate moment for a statement. This is not that moment. Once my legal counsel has advised me of the appropriate time, I will make a full and transparent statement regarding the issue."

Elkins is scheduled to return to court on April 14.

Until then, a judge ruled he will remain free on a personal bond.