COLUMBUS: The Democratic candidate for Ohio governor disregarded administrative policies when he drove without a valid driver’s license, a county inspector general’s report concluded Tuesday.
Though the report from the Cuyahoga County Inspector General Nailah Byrd comes a week before the election, details of Ed FitzGerald’s license lapses have been previously reported.
FitzGerald, the county’s executive, lacked a driver’s license for more than 10 years between 2002 and 2012 and had temporary permits for some of the period. A temporary permit allows someone to drive only if there is a sober, licensed driver 21 years or older in the passenger seat.
The inspector general’s report says the county code and charter are silent on the issue of driving requirements. But it notes that three separate administrative policies address requirements for anyone who drives a county car or uses a personal vehicle for county business. For instance, a county employee’s manual says employees must have a valid driver’s license and must tell a supervisor if the license has expired or has been suspended.
A county spokesman previously acknowledged that FitzGerald occasionally drove county-owned cars by himself before obtaining a permanent license in November 2012. FitzGerald became county executive in January 2011.
According to the inspector general’s report, a review of FitzGerald’s license record shows that he did not hold a valid driver’s license for more than 21 months during his tenure as county executive. Inspectors said “it is probable” FitzGerald operated his personal vehicle and county vehicle without a valid driver’s license.
Inspectors also found that 2012 vehicle logs for the executive’s office were improperly destroyed.
County spokesman Richard Luchette said the FitzGerald administration provided Byrd with a copy of the 2011 logs that were retained.
In their report, inspectors concluded that FitzGerald’s “disregard of County policies regarding operating personal or County vehicles on or in the course of County business, without a valid driver’s license, is a breach of the public trust that send the wrong message to County employees and taxpayers.”
The report also noted that FitzGerald has disciplined county employees for offenses involving lapses. “Based on this alone, it would be disingenuous and an apparent double standard if no discipline is pursued in this instance,” inspectors wrote.
FitzGerald has apologized multiple times for failing to obtain a license. Campaign spokesman Lauren Hitt said he has repaid the county for driving-related expenses that he received — the same penalty applied to other county workers who have been cited for driving without a valid license.
Luchette said FitzGerald cooperated with the review and received the same treatment given to other county employees. “He has also taken full responsibility for and acknowledged the seriousness of this mistake.”
Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schrimpf said the evidence in the report “clearly points to a man unable to tell the truth and unable to follow the rules.”