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3News Investigates: Lorain County commissioner target of 'ongoing criminal investigation' by Ohio auditor

Republican Michelle Hung invoked Fifth Amendment during deposition in a related civil case.

ELYRIA, Ohio — Lorain County Commissioner Michelle Hung is the target of an ongoing criminal investigation by state auditors who are examining claims of nepotism and unbid contracts related to the county’s 911 center, records obtained by 3News Investigates show.

The auditor’s probe also includes claims of document and email destruction, allegations that prompted Hung to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when questioned by attorneys in a recent deposition.

State Auditor Keith Faber’s office confirmed the investigation this week, but a spokesman said the agency “does not comment on ongoing investigations.”

Hung ignored multiple attempts by 3News Investigates to answer questions, both at the county offices and her home.

On Thursday, as she was leaving the county prosecutor’s office, she refused comment on the investigation and why she invoked the Fifth Amendment during questioning.

Robert F. Smith, deputy legal counsel for the auditor’s special investigations unit, wrote a letter to the county on Jan. 7 notifying commissioners of the probe and warning officials to preserve records that could be later sought by investigators.

The records include “emails, texts, instant messages” from a public official affiliated with the board and sent through their “personal email address or personal telephone.”

Destroying any documents could be a third-degree felony, Smith wrote.

The state said it was specifically examining four specific areas:

  • The build out of the county’s new 911 center on Burns Road and its contract with Cleveland Communications, Inc.
  • The implementation of the countywide radio and 911 system.
  • The lease of the county’s 911 tower to Cleveland Communications, Inc.
  • The interview process of Hung’s brother, Ed Dobias for a county IT department job.

The state probe, which began earlier this year, grew out of Hung’s admitted affair with longtime union leader and former county 911 administrator Harry Williamson.

Hung and Williamson were seen on surveillance cameras kissing. And later, she admitted in her deposition that she and Williamson’s affair began before she voted to hire him and included encounters inside county offices.

The soap opera-like tryst erupted when county Administrator Tom Williams exposed the affair in 2021, a move, he claimed, cost him his job.

Williams sued in U.S. District Court, which forced Hung to undergo questioning in a deposition. Transcripts from the deposition were shared with 3News Investigates and other media outlets in Lorain and Elyria.

Williams this week settled his federal lawsuit for $450,000. Hung's attorneys have since asked a judge to have the depositions sealed.

Hung, a first-term Republican, defeated a long-time Democrat incumbent in 2020, and joined fellow GOP candidate David Moore to give Lorain County its first conservative board in years.

While the two share the same party, the riff between Hung and Moore could not be more contentious.

In an interview with 3News Investigates, Moore took Hung to task for her hiring practices and her attack on Williams, the former administrator.

Moore said the affair with Williamson runs deeper than romance.

“To me, this is bigger than just sex,” he said. “When you have a public official pleading the Fifth under oath, that should be a red flag for everybody.”

Lorain County Prosecutor J.D. Tomlinson said Friday that he is aware of the state investigation.

Asked why his office, as the top law enforcement agency in the county, has not taken any action for conduct allegedly occurring across the street from his office, Tomlinson refused to comment.

Tomlinson did concede any investigation into Hung and Williamson would require him to seek a special prosecutor to avoid an appearance of a conflict of interest because of Williamson’s leadership role in his election campaign.

Tomlinson would not say why he failed to reach out to any special prosecutor.

Moore has questioned the contracts with Cleveland Communications, which Hung supported.

He’s also questioned efforts to hire Hung’s and Williamson's family and friends.

“She voted to hire his stepdaughter,” he said. “She has voted to hire her own brother.”

“People are feeling the retaliatory behavior is really what’s causing people to be walking on eggshells right now.”

Moore said he is also in possession of a bag of shredded documents, which he said were found outside Hung’s office. The bag is knotted and is stored in his office closet.

“How can somebody in that position get away with this kind of behavior and still be in that chair and be in charge of over half a billion dollars of money that funnels through the county,” Moore said.

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