PDT Staff Writer
Candidate for Scioto County Sheriff and former Portsmouth Police Chief Charles Horner has taken off the gloves and gone after one of his opponents, incumbent Sheriff Marty V. Donini.
In recent Facebook postings, Horner, in what he refers to as “the ugly season of this year’s campaign,” says he has been told by current Sheriff’s Department employees, they have been instructed by Donini to not speak to Horner, shake his hand or put one of his campaign signs in their yard.
“During the past couple weeks, I have been told by at least two individuals that someone is telling employees of the Sheriff’s Department that they will lose their jobs if I am elected,” Horner said in his posting. In an interview on Wednesday Horner said a memo had been issued at the Sheriff’s Department that said employees could not have signs nor wear Horner’s t-shirts, but that he does not have a copy of the memo and has not seen such a memo.
Another posting deals with an insecurity within the current department in which he says employees are afraid they will lose their jobs if he (Horner) is elected.
“If elected, as any other person placed in a political office, I will have the ability to bring with me qualified staff that I know will provide knowledge, service, and the ability to effect change. By the same token, experienced and qualified staff will be needed to assure continued and uninterrupted service. Change will come to the Sheriff’s Office, if I am elected. Change is difficult for most. My intent will be to bring three Administrative personnel with me, Horner said. “It is not my goal, nor my intent to make wholesale change and displace employees. I will attempt to give everyone the benefit-of-the-doubt and will work with everyone to make the Sheriff’s Office a professional department, providing service and leadership to our community. I have also been told that anger and displeasure is being directed at employees that speak with me and/or shake my hand. I would hope this kind of conduct is not occurring.”
In the Wednesday conversation, when asked about the security of current employee’s jobs, Horner said - “I answered the question in the post I made as clear as I could.”
Horner was asked if he knows the identity of the person or persons who made the accusations against Donini.
“I do know,” Horner said. “People have talked to me about it. I don’t want to get any employee in trouble, but by the same token, no employee should be treated that way nor should they have their rights any less than ours.”
Donini clarified staffing responsibilities.
“Maybe he’s not familiar as to how the Sheriff’s Office works or how the political process works,” Donini said. “But there are some fiduciary positions within this office, and those fiduciary positions are filed with the State Personnel Board of Revue once you take office. He’s (Horner) probably not aware of that. Those employees serve at the pleasure of the sheriff in office at the time. A sheriff who comes in can get rid of those people. And my understanding is that he’s already going to bring in three executive people, or whatever he wants to call them. That means three people are going to have to leave. And I guarantee you there’s no other option but to get rid of three fiduciary positions.”
Donini further addressed the accusations.
“Have I ever told my employees that they are going to lose their jobs? Do they know there’s a possibility they could lose their jobs, absolutely,” Donini said. “That’s why these employees at the time, the top 10 percent, are 100 percent politically behind me, and they are exempt from Civil Service laws. They can walk in parades. They can speak in a public forum, and endorse me and sell my leadership where the other employees are actually not allowed to engage openly in politics. I have not spread the rumor that he’s going to fire the non-union employees. Are my employees concerned? Of course. They were concerned when I took over after (James) Sutterfield was not elected. I didn’t get rid of anybody, but, no, I didn’t make that statement, and it’s kind of silly of him with his experience to listen to rumors. This is politics. People are going to say things.”
Donini said he has never hired anyone because of their political affiliation, and has never checked into someone’s political affiliation before hiring them. He agreed with Horner that the political activities of employees are covered by law.
In his posting, Horner said, “Today, I was told that some Civil Service employees are being told they cannot display my campaign sign in their yard and others told they can’t wear my campaign t-shirt. I would like to remind those who believe this is not allowed, to refer to Ohio Administrative Code:
123:1-46-02 Political activity of employees in the classified service, specifically, Section B-7 and B-8:
(B) The following are examples of permissible activities for employees in the classified service:
(7) Display of political materials in the employee’s home or on the employee’s property;
(8) Wearing political badges or buttons, or the display of political stickers on private vehicles”
Donini said it has always been his understanding that employees have those rights, consequently, he has never ordered them to do otherwise.
A call to another candidate, Steve Goins, was not immediately returned on Wednesday.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org