Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason violated state law by returning more than $74,000 in campaign contributions to his employees, the Ohio Election Commission has ruled.

But the commission voted not to prosecute Mason because members concluded that he acted with good intentions, said Phillip Richter, the commission’s executive director. The commission also rejected Richter’s recommendation to impose a $1,000 fine.

Mason sought the ruling after The Plain Dealer reported earlier this year that he might have broken the law by returning the money. State laws prohibit returning contributions to individual donors unless ordered by a judge.

Mason plans to appeal. “Under federal law, it is permissible to return campaign contributions to contributors, but Ohio law is silent,” he said Friday. “It is absurd that candidates cannot return campaign contributions.”


The prosecutor returned the 222 contributions – totaling $74,538 – last year after being criticized by opponents of an ultimately successful ballot measure that brought charter government to the county.

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