WILMINGTON — Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted searches in Clinton County Wednesday in relation to former Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger.
Agents were at both his home on State Route 350 in Clarksville and at 761 S. Nelson Ave. in Wilmington, where Rosenberger, 37, is believed to have items stored.
The Nelson Avenue building houses several businesses, including the Wilmington News Journal. The owner of the building is Bret Dixon, former Clinton County Economic Development Director.
Todd Lindgren, Public Information Officer of the Cincinnati Division of the FBI, told the News Journal on the scene at the Nelson Avenue address that, “We’re conducting law enforcement activity” and that agents arrived around 7:30 a.m.
At least two apparent FBI agents wearing protective gloves could be seen looking at items behind a glass door at the building’s only South Nelson Avenue-facing entrance.
Lindgren declined further comment, except to confirm that agents were also at the SR 350 address.
Dixon said the Nelson Avenue building essentially is a multi-tenant office and warehouse storage facility. In terms of storage space, Rosenberger “does not have a significant presence here,” Dixon said Wednesday at his work office which is located in the building.
He and Rosenberger are “good friends,” said Dixon.
Rosenberger was seen arriving at the residence where the agents were conducting their investigation at around 11 a.m. Wednesday. Another reporter told the News Journal an FBI agent was seen taking a suitcase out of the residence to one of their vehicles.
The FBI has previously declined to confirm or deny that Rosenberger is being investigated. An FBI inquiry would not necessarily result in charges.
Rosenberger is apparently part of an investigation into the money behind his international travel and lavish lifestyle while serving as one of the state’s most powerful politicians, according to the Associated Press. While speaker, Rosenberger took trips, sometimes with lobbyists present, to Europe, Israel, Iceland and various U.S. cities and rented a luxury Columbus condo from a wealthy GOP donor.
Rosenberger’s lawyer, David Axelrod, said his client was cooperating with authorities, reiterating the former lawmaker’s position that he has “acted lawfully and ethically,” the Associated Press reported.
“We previously offered to provide the information sought today by warrant, and today voluntarily provided additional information not covered by the warrant,” Axelrod said in a statement. “Speaker Rosenberger has also complied with a requirement to file legal disclosure forms regarding gifts, meals and travel.”
Rosenberger resigned his post as Speaker and as 91st District Representative in April amid talks that he was the subject of an FBI investigation and that he had hired an attorney.
Several prominent Ohio elected officials had called on Rosenberger to resign immediately rather than wait until May 1, as he said he would do when he announced in early April his intention to step down. That group included Republican gubernatorial nominee Mike DeWine and former candidate Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, along with state Auditor Dave Yost.
Highland County Commissioner Shane Wilkin won the May 8 Republican primary election and will run in November against Democrat Justin Grimes for election to the new term which begins in January.
Wilkin was expected to be sworn into Rosenberger’s seat days after the election.
House Republicans in Ohio again this week brought their decision on the immediate successor to Rosenberger to a halt, calling off a scheduled vote that’s needed before any more laws can be made.
The official reason for canceling Tuesday’s vote on an interim speaker was too few lawmakers could attend.
Among other issues, the impasse was another setback in the plan to seat Highland County Commissioner Shane Wilkin in the House to fill the remainder of Rosenberger’s term.