University releases documents in Petro controversy

AKRON, Ohio - Legal documents that reveal Attorney General Jim Petro ordered the University of Akron to replace four law firms despite objections from the school's top lawyer have been made public by the university's board of trustees.

Trustees voted Tuesday to release the previously confidential documents, which include e-mails and letters between Ted Mallo, a school vice president and general counsel, and members of Petro's staff.

The documents were released following a public records request by

The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.

Petro had told the university the documents were private, citing attorney-client privilege. Trustees said the privilege should be waived.

In the messages, Mallo warns that changing the law firms would be costly and inefficient. Petro's office told the university to make the changes in January 2003.

Petro, a Republican running for governor, has denied accusations from two lawyers who claim their firms lost legal work from the state because they refused to donate to Petro's 2002 campaign for attorney general. The lawyers have said they were interviewed by the FBI last month.

One of those lawyers is Akron trustee Jack Morrison, who abstained from the board's vote. Morrison also is a personal lawyer for Alex Arshinkoff, chairman of the Summit County Republican Party and a political foe of Petro.

Deputy attorney general Michael Grodhaus told the

Akron Beacon Journal

that Petro made the changes to reduce the control Arshinkoff had over special-counsel work in Summit County.

"Philosophically we felt that these are the attorney general's appointments to make, and they should not be dictated by any party chairman -- Republican or Democrat," Grodhaus said.

One of the new firms to get work was Roetzel and Andress. The Akron law practice has hosted fundraisers for Petro, and its attorneys gave $53,500 to his campaigns from 2002 to 2004, The Plain Dealer said.

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