MOUNT VERNON — Scott Pullins, attorney for former Mount Vernon School Board candidate Robert Kirk, has asked Mount Vernon City Law Director William Smith to withdraw a complaint filed against Kirk with the Ohio Elections Commission.
Rob Broeren, assistant law director, filed a complaint with the OEC claiming Kirk violated election laws by accepting four campaign contributions. The complaint stipulated three of the four contributions were corporate donations which are not permissible according to the Ohio Revised Code. The fourth contribution, according to the complaint, was from a limited liability company, which is acceptable but also requires information regarding the owners of the business. Owner information did not appear on Kirk’s pre-general election Campaign Finance Report.
The News confirmed Tuesday after press time that two of the four contributions were from limited liability companies making them legitimate donations.
Pullins contends the city law director does not have the jurisdiction to file a complaint with the OEC.
According to Phil Richter, executive director of the OEC, any one — a private citizen, the local board of elections or, in this case, the city law director — can file a complaint as long as it is filed properly.
Stipulations to file a complaint state that it must include: names, addresses and phone numbers of all parties involved, statement of violation and the section of the Ohio Revised Code allegedly violated, notarized signature of filer and any evidence to support the complaint.
Smith defended the filing of the complaint against Kirk Thursday afternoon.
“It’s not really the city (filing the complaint),” Smith said. “I’m also the prosecuting attorney of the municipal court. These violations would constitute first-degree misdemeanors, which is what we prosecute in municipal court.”
According to City Code 123.01, “the Law Director shall be prosecuting attorney of the Mount Vernon Municipal Court and shall prosecute all criminal matters originating in this court ...”
Smith said the OEC would decide whether criminal charges were warranted and make a recommendation back to his office. At that point, he would decide whether or not to file for criminal prosecution.
According to the letter sent to Smith, Pullins believes the local board of elections is “the most appropriate local authority to determine violations of election law.”
Kim Horn, director of the Knox County Board of Elections, said her office audits every campaign finance report for errors in a timely manner. Depending on the number of reports, it could take several weeks, she said.
By the time Kirk’s report was audited, an amendment had been made showing Kirk refunded the four contributions.
“After being in contact with the Secretary of State’s office, we realized he needed to wait until the post-general report to show the refund. Instead, we needed a letter asking us to disregard the amended report,” Horn said. “That letter was filed Nov. 12.”
Horn also said if auditors notice something is missing or not recorded correctly in a report, they will notify the campaign treasurer who can then fix the problem. If the problem continues without a response through the post-general report, then her office will seek further action.
However, if a private individual brings a complaint to the BOE, the office will “file on behalf of that person.”
In a letter sent to Smith Tuesday afternoon, Pullins gave Smith until the close of business to file to dismiss the complaint.
“If you choose not to do so, Mr. Kirk has authorized me to file an original action against the City of Mount Vernon, Ohio with the Fifth District Court of Appeals,” Pullins wrote. “In addition, Mr. Kirk will be seeking a finding of sanctions and an award of attorney fees against the City of Mount Vernon, Ohio and Mr. Broeren with the Ohio Elections Commission for the investigation, prosecution, and the filing of this unwarranted and frivolous complaint.”
Kirk told the News Tuesday he did not solicit the four contributions and refunded the money on Oct. 24.
In an e-mail to the News this morning, Pullins said, “We are giving the city a few more days to review the letter that we provide them and to research the relevant law.”
As of press time, a call to Smith for comment on Pullins’ request was not returned.