A year-long investigation into Jim Ward's cellular telephone use could conclude next week when the three-term Delaware County commissioner is slated to appear in court.

A year-long investigation into Jim Ward's cellular telephone use could conclude next week when the three-term Delaware County commissioner is slated to appear in court.

A hearing at which Ward, his attorneys, representatives of the Ohio Ethics Commission and a special prosecutor are expected to appear, has been set for Oct. 7 in Delaware County Common Pleas Court. No charge has been filed.

According to Charles Saxbe, an attorney for Ward, the hearing could put an end to ongoing investigations by the ethics commission and Franklin County prosecutor Ron O'Brien, who last October was assigned to determine if Ward used his county-issued cell phone for personal gain, or to benefit a family member or business associate.

Saxbe, however, wouldn't say what, if any, criminal charges he expects to be levied against his client.

"We have a scheduled meeting on the seventh (of October)," Saxbe said. "We're going to be up there.

"I've been in discussions with Ron O'Brien, the special prosecutor. We've been working on paperwork which would allow us to look at what their proposed resolution to this is."

Ward -- who will step down as commissioner in January after losing a re-election bid to Tommy Thompson last May in the Republican primary election -- came under scrutiny in May 2007 after his county-owned cell phone number appeared on an invitation to one of his campaign fundraising events.

The matter was referred to the ethics commission by Delaware County prosecutor Dave Yost, O'Brien was appointed as special prosecutor on Oct. 4, 2007, and the investigation has continued since.

Ward denied creating the invitation and has reimbursed the county more than $300 for his phone use.

He stopped using government-issued cell phones, and the county commissioners approved a new policy for county-owned phones in June 2007.

O'Brien last week wouldn't discuss the nature of the impending hearing, or if charges would be levied.

"Judge (William) Finnegan from Marion County, who has been appointed as a visiting judge, has set the James Ward case for a hearing on Oct. 7, 2008 at 1 p.m. in Judge (Everett) Krueger's courtroom in the Delaware County courthouse," O'Brien said via e-mail.

"I understand that the court has issued notices to all parties, including Mr. Ward and his two lawyers, William Meeks and Charles R. Saxbe. Myself and Paul Nick from the ethics commission expect to be present at that time.

"If there is any other information that may be disclosed prior to that date I will contact you."

Ethics commission officials also were tight-lipped about the upcoming proceeding.

"This all results from the investigation the ethics commission conducted and referred to the prosecutor several months ago," said David Freel, Ohio Ethics Commission executive director.

"We have some outline and may understand what those (charges) may be, but we can't say."

As of last Wednesday, Ward said he hadn't been subpoenaed, but would attend the Oct. 7 hearing.

He said he won't plead guilty to any charges, but wouldn't say if he'll plead no contest.

A person who enters a no contest plea doesn't admit guilt to a crime, but also doesn't refute the charge against him or her.

"I'll be pleading something other than guilty," Ward said.

"It's a politically trumped-up charge that should have gone away a long time ago, but due to the fact the ethics commission and my prosecutor have to justify all the hours and thousands of dollars they've spent on this one case, they had to come up with something -- or they thought they did."

Asked to respond to those assertions, Yost said he couldn't comment because he's not handling the case.