PDT Staff Writer
The New Boston Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 208 has filed an ethics violation complaint against incumbent Scioto County Sheriff Marty V. Donini, with the Ohio Elections Commission. That alleged violation charges Donini with making false statements of endorsement in campaign materials, which the Lodge says is a violation under Ohio Revised Code 3517.21 (B) (8) and 3517.21 (B) (10).
In drafting the letter, the president of Lodge No. 208, Lt. Diane Davis says she personally witnessed Donini and “several of his off-duty supervising deputies” going door to door in the Village of New Boston handing out and distributing campaign materials in plastic bags that read in bold black print - “Endorsed by Fraternal Order of Police Portsmouth-New Boston Police Lodge #33, Scioto County Sheriff’s Office Lodge #187.”
In the complaint, Davis points out that while New Boston police officers had at one time been members of FOP Lodge No. 33, which, at one time, was made up of both Portsmouth and New Boston police officers, that all changed in April of 2012 when the New Boston Police Department petitioned the Ohio State Fraternal Order of Police to separate from that Lodge in order to form their own Lodge.
“The formation of the New Boston FOP Lodge #208 and the separation away from the FOP Lodge #33 was advertised in the Portsmouth Daily Times which is the only daily newspaper in Scioto County by a news article that was done and published. The news article is enclosed as an exhibit for this complaint,” Davis said in the cover letter.
Davis went on to say, “Sheriff candidate Marty Donini is well aware the New Boston police officers are no longer part of the FOP Lodge #33.”
“Although I am the president of FOP Lodge #208, I am also a resident of New Boston and personally witnessed this and these materials were left on my front porch, as well as many other residents of New Boston,” Davis said in the complaint.
The complaint charges that Donini, “as an experienced elected official that has been in elected office for sixteen years,” should have made arrangements to either black out the words “New Boston Police Lodge” on the bags or the bags should have been done without that phrase.
Donini said on Tuesday afternoon that he had not received notification of a complaint being filed, and had only been informed by a call from the Portsmouth Daily Times.
“It’s not surprising. This is my fifth time to run for re-election, and it seems like each and every time I have always ended up in court because some inexperienced politician wants to argue some irrelevant issue,” Donini said. “With that having been said, in 1996, again in 2000, again in 2004, and again in 2012, I received the endorsement from FOP Lodge No. 33 which included members of the Portsmouth Police Department and the New Boston Police Department. I received the endorsement each and every time.”
Donini went on to say prior to the New Boston Police Department forming its own lodge he had ordered “thousands and thousands” of pieces of literature to be handed out.
“As a matter of fact, it was first brought to my attention when you (this reporter) wrote an article on June 30, I believe, that they had formed their own lodge,” Donini said. “The only issue is that my literature was not only ordered, but was also received in my hands prior to June 30. It was already a done deal. Since June 30, I have accepted the responsibility and changed all of my literature, all of my graphics to exclude the New Boston Police Department in any of the endorsements.”
Donini said everything that he has ordered after that announcement makes no mention of the New Boston Police Department.
“My point is that I was endorsed by FOP Lodge No. 33, and if you will read your (this reporter) article on March 7, you actually make a statement that members of the New Boston Police Department are also members of FOP Lodge No. 33,” Donini said. “Therefore I don’t think I did anything wrong. I don’t feel that our committee should have to forfeit the financial sources that we used to pay for these thousands and thousands of items. And I’m going to continue to disperse them as is because I stand by what it says. It says, Portsmouth-New Boston Lodge No. 33. When I received the endorsement that’s who made up that Lodge.”
The Ohio Elections Commission had not yet received the letter by late Tuesday afternoon, but said when complaints are filed, those complaints are given to the Commission’s staff attorney to make sure it is proper for the Commission. If it is, the Commission will send notice as to a date for a hearing on the issue. The spokesman said what action is taken depends on the allegation at hand.
“If it’s alleging a false statement, it will go before a Probable Cause Panel,” a Commission spokesman said.
He said the panel would be made up of either one Democrat, one Republican and one Independent, or two Democrats and two Republicans. “They’ll determine whether or not the complaint holds merit or whether there has been probable cause for a violation.”
FOP Lodge No. 208 made a point of making no endorsement of any candidate after the formation of their Lodge.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at flewis@heartland