Former RTA Board President George Dixon Charged With Theft While In Office
The former board president of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is expected to plead guilty to theft in office charges, stemming from unpaid healthcare premiums over his 24-year tenure.
George Dixon III was charged with one count of theft in office Tuesday and has already agreed to pay $132,000 in restitution. Dixon entered a plea by information, which generally indicates a guilty plea is coming, most likely after an arraignment, as judges often will not accept a guilty pleat at an arraignment.
The charges carry a possible sentence of nine to 36 months in jail and up to a $10,000 fine, or both, according to Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Jim Gutierrez.
"He has taken responsibility," Gutierrez said. "When you go by way of information, usually in this county, in our office, that means both sides agree on the charge."
Through insurance claim recovery, RTA is pursuing more than $1.1 million in healthcare benefits and unpaid premiums for insurance provided by RTA for a 24-year period ending on March 1, 2018, according to a press release from current RTA Board President and Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough.
"Mr. Dixon abused the public's trust for personal benefit," Clough said in the statement. "We are encouraged to see that justice is being served. We do not tolerate abuse of taxpayer money, and we have controls in place to prevent this from happening again."
Board policy was that trustees could enroll in RTA's healthcare plan, but had to pay 100 percent of the healthcare premiums, according to Clough said in the statement. The board changed the policy in May 2018 and trustees are no longer eligible for RTA's healthcare plan.
Clough directed any further questions about Dixon and the case to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office.
An internal investigation by RTA showed the discrepancy. The agency then forwarded their findings to the prosecutor.
"He got treatment through his healthcare coverage through the RTA board, but did not pay the full premiums," Gutierrez said. "He paid (part) of the premiums, but not the full."
Prosecutors typically rely on outside agencies to investigate, such as the police for criminal cases.
"But in this case, that was not the case. RTA did their own investigation internally, then brought the results to us and then we followed up on it," Gutierrez said
Dixon served as RTA board president for 24 years and resigned March 29, 2018, at the board's request.