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December 11, 2014

Akron Charity's Loan to Political Campaign Draws Scrutiny

Akron, Ohio, Mayor Don Plusquellic is defending a $75,000 loan from a scholarship foundation he established to a political committee promoting a ballot question aimed at raising money for higher education, The Plain Dealer reports. The 2008 loan significantly depleted the coffers of the Don Plusquellic Scholarship Foundation, which raises money to aid Akron public school students but made no contributions in 2012, the last year for which financial statements are available, according to the Cleveland daily.

The money went to Keep Akron Strong, a political group backing a 2008 ballot measure to privatize the city's sewer system and use the proceeds for scholarships. Voters rejected the proposal. The loan was legal under Internal Revenue Service rules but has become fodder in a local debate over ethics and campaign finance led by Warner Mendenhall, a former City Council member.

The sewer measure aimed "to give every single child in this community an opportunity to have ... advanced educational opportunities, which would have changed this city more than anything I could have done my entire lifetime," Mr. Plusquellic said at a press conference Wednesday. "We loaned money to the effort to sell that to the public." As of 2012, $73,000 remained outstanding on the loan, which was scheduled to be repaid by 2013.