Prosecutor contacted by GOP about Franklin schools probe
LEBANON, Feb 28, 2013 (Dayton Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The Warren County prosecutor received calls and emails from Ohio Republican Party staffers on the day he opened an investigation into the actions of the Franklin Schools superintendent, according to records obtained by the Middletown Journal.
A public records request by the newspaper revealedProsecutor David Fornshell received an email from Susan Waidner, the Southwest Ohio field director for the Ohio GOP, at 10:52 a.m. Feb. 14 asking him to call her. Fornshell called her back two minutes later but didn't reach her.
The prosecutor also received a phone call from GOP Political Director Dave Luketic at 10:56 a.m..
Fornshell was traveling with his wife on vacation that day and responded to Waidner's email at 1:53 p.m., asking if she was calling about the Franklin schools issue. He said both were calling him about complaints they had received from people.
Fornshell told Luketic during their phone conversation that he had already opened an investigation into the issue based on a complaint he had received. Waidner apparently walked into Luketic's office while he was speaking with the prosecutor, and she said she no longer needed to speak with him, according to Fornshell.
"There was no pressure brought to bear, they didn't ask me to do anything," Fornshell said. "I think they were doing their due diligence with respect to people that had called them and complained."
Fornshell's office sent a press release at 3:36 p.m. on Feb. 14 announcing he had launched an investigation into a letter by Superintendent Arnol Elam, that may have crossed the election laws line. Fornshell received a query from a Warren County Tea Party member earlier that morning, asking if Elam violated the law by using public resources to push a political agenda. The person sent Fornshell a copy of Elam's letter at 7:08 a.m. and continued communicating via e-mail with him throughout the day.
The investigation came two days after the superintendent sent a letter home to parents of the district's 2,924 students urging them to join him "in an active campaign to ensure Gov. (John) Kasich and any legislator who supports him are not re-elected." The letter was also posted on the district's website.
The Ohio Democrats responded, asking for copies of all communications between Fornshell's office and Kasich's camp. Jerry Kurtz a spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party described Luketic as the governor's "eyes and ears" at the Republican Party.
"He is more or less one of Governor Kasich's top political lieutenants, responsible with kind of marshaling the governor's political resources and political agenda outside the governor's office," Kurtz said.
He added that this matter is not closed as far as he is concerned.
"We know for a certainty that Fornshell communicated with staff from the Ohio Republican Party and those extremely close to the governor on the same day he announced his plans to open a political investigation into this gentleman that had the courage to criticize the governor's education plan," he said. "It kind of confirms our worst fears, and we are definitely going to continue to look into this."
Fornshell also contacted the state auditor's office that day to find out what that office does when they find out a school district may have used public funds for political purposes. He corresponded via e-mail with that official between 6:39 p.m. and 9:46 p.m. He said neither he nor anyone in the GOP did anything wrong, and he would take the same steps if the shoe were on the other foot, so to speak.
"I reject the suggestion that we should not have reviewed this matter when it was brought to our attention. It was a clear violation of the law," Fornshell said. "I would also state that had someone in Warren County used public funds to advocate for the election of Governor Kasich or any legislator supporting him, the Ohio Democratic Party and others would be calling for an investigation, not criticizing our office for looking into the issue further."
Waidner and Luketic could not be reached for comment.
"We regularly pursue complaints of illegal campaign activities with the appropriate authorities, whether that is the Ohio Elections Commission or a local prosecutor," said GOP spokesman Matthew Henderson. "This is someone who used school kids as mules to carry campaign propaganda, and when we contacted the prosecutor he was already pursuing the matter."
Fornshell closed his investigation a week later after Elam agreed to pay $539 in restitution. Fornshell said Elam shelled out $269 of his own money to cover the cost of the page that contained the offending paragraph and Elam and the school board personally paid for a second letter that went out explaining what happened.
___ (c)2013 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio) Visit the Dayton Daily News
(Dayton, Ohio) at www.daytondailynews.com Distributed by MCT Information
[ Back To Technology News's Homepage ]