► Columbus Dispatch – 07/03/02 – Justices say receipts prove their case in Supreme Court gasoline purchases Print E-mail

Columbus Dispatch – July 3, 2002 – Justices say receipts prove their case in Supreme Court gasoline purchases

Jon Craig – Statehouse Reporter
 
Four Ohio Supreme Court justices yesterday denied overfilling their
state-owned vehicles with gasoline and provided documentation to back
their assertions.
 
"This has gone too far,'' Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer said. "We think
somebody's playing gotcha with us . . . and we're tired of it.''
 
The justices have been accused of charging the state for more gallons
than their vehicles' tanks could hold.
 
Yesterday the four provided The Dispatch with letters written last week
by oil company executives. The letters state that the amount of gallons
listed on records previously provided to the court are inaccurate.
 
Moyer and Columbus lawyer Michael L. Close also provided individual
receipts to defend the gas purchases by the chief justice and Justices
Andrew Douglas, Paul E. Pfeifer and Francis E. Sweeney.
 
The justices said they were offended by 24 felony theft-in-office
allegations filed June 21 by self-proclaimed judicial watchdog David
Palmer of Columbus.
 
"There is not a scintilla of truth'' to Palmer's claims, Douglas said.
 
Anyone studying one of Palmer's supporting documents would know
something was amiss by comparing three gas purchases, all on June 7,
2000, Douglas said. The BP bill showed three widely different prices per
gallon were purportedly charged that day: $1.18, $1.71 and $1.87.
 
The explanations related by the oil companies were complicated.
 
Marathon Ashland Petroleum, whose stations were frequented by Sweeney,
said its records reflect only approximations of the gallons sold.
 
"A formula was used to approximate the price per gallon if such price
was not included on the hand-written receipt,'' explained Marathon
attorney Michelle M. Rogers.
 
"This weighted pricing was averaged over a one-month period. All
purchases made during that month in the same state were assessed the
same price and the gallonage calculated by dividing that price into the
total amount included on the receipt.''
 
Meanwhile, both the quantity and price of Pfeifer's gasoline purchases
at the Bucyrus Duke & Duchess station are wrong, said Fred Kaseman, vice
president of Englefield Oil in Heath.
 
The credit-card machine at the Bucyrus station broke and was replaced by
one that did not record the proper amounts, Kaseman said.
 
Of all the signed receipts provided yesterday, only Pfeifer's
consistently itemized the number of gallons purchased. All nine of his
receipts show that less gas was pumped into his Jeep Grand Cherokee than
the 20.5-gallon tank can hold -- contrary to what Palmer alleged.
 
"I'm still steamed,'' Pfeifer said.
 
Douglas said he has been busy defending himself from bogus stories and
neighbors' teasing.
 
But he said he thinks the state is being overcharged for his purchases.
 
"BP is ripping us off,'' Douglas said. "I think there's a major story
here.''
 
Officials at BP could not be reached for comment.
 
Douglas further alleged that some individual gas stations may have
pocketed state taxes that justices don't have to pay.
 
Palmer said he plans to pursue his complaints at a July 15 hearing in
Franklin County Municipal Court.
 
"If the fuel don't fit, we can't acquit,'' he said.
 

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