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Government & Politics

Former Newburgh Heights mayor sentenced to 30 days in jail for campaign finance violations

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Lisa Ryan
Ideastream Public Media
Former Newburgh Heights Mayor Trevor Elkins pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations in April.

Former Newburgh Heights Mayor Trevor Elkins has been sentenced to 30 days in jail for campaign finance violations.

Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Joan Synenberg issued the sentence Tuesday despite the prosecutor’s recommendation of five years probation and no jail time.

“I’m surprised quite frankly that the state of Ohio doesn’t recognize the seriousness of the violation of a public official violating the public trust,” Synenberg said.

Elkins pleaded guilty in April to three charges: two election falsification charges and an attempted theft in office charge. He was taken into custody after the sentence was read.

The case began in 2019 when investigators from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections office documented 651 instances where Elkins used money donated for his campaigns on expenses like bar and restaurants tabs and haircuts.

All 651 illegal expenditures occurred between 2015 and 2019 and totaled more than $130,000.

While asking the judge for a light sentence, Elkins compared what happened to a clerical mistake.

“Your honor, I did not steal money. I did not embezzle money,” Elkins told Synenberg after saying that he was using the same account for personal expenses and campaign expenses and that he paid back all the money he used on expenses like restaurant and bar tabs from the account.

“I truly did not know that I was committing a violation,” he said.

Synenberg responded that he was supposed to know “the rules of the game.”

Elkins cooperated throughout the investigation, which was launched in 2019 after local election boards were given more authority to conduct audits of campaign finance spending.

He resigned from Newburgh Heights government earlier this year and agreed not to run for office again until after 2028.

Elkins had recently sought a higher profile in local politics. In 2018, he unsuccessfully ran for a leadership position in the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, attempting to unseat incumbents Shontel Brown and Kevin Kelley.

He also created a 32-hour work week for city employees in Newburgh Heights and a home ownership program meant to attract young people to the small suburb near Downtown Cleveland.