Ohio State Teachers Retirement System board member Michael Billirakis and three former board members were charged by the Ohio Ethics Commission with accepting gifts from financial institutions that did business with the $65.1 billion fund, according to a news release today by the commission. The commission charged that Mr. Billirakis accepted tickets worth $275 from Russell Real Estate Advisors, a unit of the Russell Investment Group, to see the Broadway musical "Hairspray" in 2003 and for accepting tickets from Salomon Smith Barney Consulting Group to see a Cleveland Indians baseball game in 2001. Former board members Joseph Endry, Eugene Norris and Deborah Scott also were charged with receiving tickets to see "Hairspray" in 2003. The criminal cases will be tried in Franklin County Court in Columbus. Trial dates have not yet been made.
Early this year, former board member Jack Chapman pleaded no contest to three charges of accepting gifts, while former board member Hazel Sidaway was found guilty of accepting gifts in 2001. Herb Dyer, the fund's former executive director, last year pleaded guilty to four counts of accepting gifts.
In a prepared statement, Damon Asbury, the fund's executive director, called the charges "unfortunate and regrettable" and said that since 2003, the fund has put in place strict rules prohibiting any of the fund's staff members from accepting gifts.