CLEVELAND -- Motor vehicle records show Democratic governor's race candidate and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald didn't have a valid Ohio driver's license for nearly five years starting in 2008, raising further questions about a 2012 incident in which he was found in a car with a woman who wasn't his wife at 4:30 a.m. in a suburban industrial park.
FitzGerald had only a temporary instruction permit when a worker called police in the Cleveland suburb of Westlake on Oct. 13, 2012, to report suspicious activity at the park. FitzGerald later identified the woman in the car as Joanne Grehan, who was part of an Irish delegation visiting the region. He said Friday the group of people with whom he had been traveling had gotten lost and he was trying to connect with them.
One of his top aides, however, has disputed his version of events: Nate Kelly has said he was chauffeuring members of the delegation as a designated driver and didn't get lost.
A police officer noted in a brief report having talked to Fitzgerald but did not cite him.
If Grehan had a valid Irish driver's license at the time, it would have been legal for FitzGerald to drive with her in the car. Ohio law requires that a motorist with a temporary permit have a sober, licensed driver 21 years or older in the passenger seat next to him.
But if FitzGerald dropped Grehan off at her hotel and drove home or anywhere else by himself, he would have broken the law, a minor misdemeanor with a maximum $150 fine
FitzGerald did not have a driver's license when he applied for a one-year, temporary permit on March 20, 2008. After it lapsed in March 2009, he went without any kind of permit or license until he applied for a second permit on Oct. 22, 2010. He applied for another permit on Nov. 15, 2011, and finally received a driver's license a year later.
It's unclear why FitzGerald, a 46-year-old former FBI agent, assistant county prosecutor, suburban mayor and county executive, the most powerful elected position in Cuyahoga County government, went so long without a driver's license or why he allowed the temporary permits to lapse.
FitzGerald's campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said Tuesday he "has apologized for the mistake," but she didn't elaborate on what the mistake was or why he failed to obtain a driver's license for so long.
A spokeswoman for Gov. John Kasich, FitzGerald's Republican opponent, declined to comment on Tuesday.
The Columbus Dispatch reported Monday that Fitzgerald lacked a driver's license between much of 2008 and 2012.