The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

February 4, 2011

Ex-solicitor agrees to one-year probation

ASHTABULA — A former city solicitor is expected to be on probation for a year for supposedly commingling his personal money with that of a trust account.

Thomas Simon allegedly commingled his personal money with his Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts fund, writing $369,081 worth of checks payable to himself and others from the account, which is a violation of professional and ethical conduct, according to a complaint filed a year ago by the Ohio Supreme Court Disciplinary Counsel and Disciplinary Counsel Jonathan E. Coughlan. 

On Thursday, Chief Assistant Discipline Counsel Lori Brown said, “The court issued an order on Oct. 25 that the parties reached an agreed discipline by consent; they agreed to a resolution.” The agreement was that Simon’s law license would be suspended for one year, with the entire suspension stayed, she said.

“Under a stayed suspension, if you commit further misconduct, you get an immediate hearing,” Brown said, noting a stayed suspension does count as “previous discipline” with the Supreme Court.

Simon does have his law license and can practice law, she said.

Simon could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Supreme Court of Ohio recommended the agreement be accepted and the costs of the proceedings be taxed to Simon.

Brown emphasized that as of Thursday, the Supreme Court has not entered the final order.

Simon began practicing law in Ohio in May 1981. He became Ashtabula's city solicitor in December 1985 and remained in office until December 2007.

According to the complaint, at all times relevant to the allegations in this complaint, Simon kept and deposited money into an the IOLTA at US Bank. He also was the only attorney with signature authority on the IOLTA.

The six-page complaint claims from March 2007 through 2008, Simon deposited client funds, personal funds, attorney fees and retainer fees from several clients into the IOLTA, including money from his Public Employees Retirement System account and money from his father's, the late Sam Simon, estate.

From June 2005 through March 2009, he used the US Bank IOLTA as if it were his personal bank account and/ or law-office operating account, the complaint states.

The Disciplinary Counsel received a letter regarding Simon's conduct on Oct. 8, 2008, from the Ashtabula County Bar Association Certified Grievance Committee.

The complaint states the Supreme Court's Disciplinary Counsel repeatedly requested information and copies of Simon's income-tax returns going back to 2005, to no avail — although Simon assured the panel "he would do so in the near future," the complaint said.

As an attorney, Simon's alleged misconduct violates the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, according to the complaint.

By failing to hand over the requested information, Simon violated another rule of professional conduct, according to the complaint.

Coughlan alleged Simon is chargeable with misconduct pursuant to the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Rules of Professional Conduct, according to the complaint.

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