Columbus Rep. W. Carlton Weddington will surrender to the FBI today and resign his seat in the state legislature as he faces indictment on three charges, including bribery.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said the charges relate to an undercover FBI operation that included Weddington accepting trips to California and Florida, allegedly in exchange for services.
O'Brien said the investigation began around the time The Dispatch reported in April 2010 that Weddington had told an official with the Center for Responsible Lending that he wanted a $2,500 payment made to the Legislative Black Caucus before the group of lawmakers would agree to talk with him about payday lending.
Weddington was indicted by the Franklin County grand jury for Bribery, a third degree felony, Election Falsification, a fifth degree felony, and filing a False Ethics Disclosure statement, a first degree misdemeanor. The charges in the current indictment carry a maximum penalty of 4 ½ years in prison. Dependent on the course of the investigation, other charges may be forthcoming against Weddington.
At the time of the Payday Lending incident in 2010, Brian Rothenberg, Executive Director of ProgressOhio publicly commented:
"I think the Black Caucus, as it was first conceived and has developed, has been one of the more effective advocacy organizations for African-Americans in the country," said Brian Rothenberg, executive director of ProgressOhio, a statewide liberal advocacy group. "But it got into this really loose, gray area when the foundation was created."
The way the foundation works, Rothenberg said, "has the potential to influence a legislator and has the potential to avoid transparency. I think that is very troubling."
FBI agents approached Representative Weddington after the false financial disclosure report was filed in February 2012. Following consultation with counsel, Representative Weddington agreed to cooperate with the FBI and O'Brien's office. The first step in that cooperation was an agreement to resign his elected position in the Ohio General Assembly, which he has submitted today. That resignation was sought because the legislature is returning from a recess and was to resume legislative sessions. It was agreed Weddington should not participate. Also, Weddington will withdraw his candidacy for re-election and request that his name be removed from the November ballot.