FBI contacts lawyers alleging donations required for state work

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Two Akron lawyers who say their firms lost much of their legal work for the state because they refused to donate to Attorney General Jim Petro's campaign said they have been contacted by the FBI about the accusations.

Attorney Ray Weber said Tuesday that he spoke with FBI officials last week about his allegations first published Jan. 29 in

The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.

Jack Morrison, who says Petro told him that his firm would lose state legal contracts because of donations to another candidate in the 2002 race, told the

Dayton Daily News

he was scheduled to speak with Akron FBI officials Wednesday.

Petro, a Republican candidate for governor, has denied the accusations. Spokeswoman Kim Norris said federal authorities have not contacted his office.

"No one has contacted us, nor do we expect to be contacted, regarding these false, politically motivated allegations," Norris said.

Scott Wilson, spokesman for the FBI's Cleveland office, would not comment.

Morrison, a lawyer with the Akron firm Amer Cunningham, has said Petro told him at a campaign fundraiser that he would lose his state work but would have a chance to get it back if he made contributions.

Messages were left Tuesday seeking further comment from Morrison.

Amer Cunningham received $356,827 in state legal work in fiscal 2003, but the amount fell to $29,368 last year,

The Plain Dealer's

analysis of state records showed.

Weber's firm, Renner Kenner Greive Bobak Taylor and Weber, received $3.7 million in state contracts from 1999 to 2003. In 2004, that dropped to $300.

Weber said he believes his firm lost its patent work for the University of Akron and Kent State University because it refused a series of fundraising requests from Petro's campaign.

"I've never met him, I have nothing against him personally, but I think what he did with the intellectual property of these two universities was somewhat outrageous," Weber said.

Petro has said the firms lost work because of their ties to Summit County GOP Chairman Alex Arshinkoff. Morrison is Arshinkoff's personal attorney.

In the past, the state work had been awarded on the suggestion of Arshinkoff, Norris said. Petro cut back on the firms' work on the recommendation of his deputy, who said continually giving the offices contracts could damage his reputation for independence and integrity.

Petro's campaign also was accused of trading campaign donations for state legal work in an affidavit filed in December in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. In that statement, Columbus attorney Kevin O'Brien said Petro's chief fundraiser, Amy Gravengaard, told him legal work for the state was available for a $25,000 donation.

Petro's campaign said the allegation was false, and Gravengaard denied it.

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