MOUNT VERNON — The staff attorney for the Ohio Elections Commission told the News, Thursday afternoon, he did not find probable cause to move a complaint against Renee McDaniel forward, but did not have the opportunity to share his recommendation with the commission because the complaint was withdrawn.
Knox County Republican Party Chairman Chip McConville today filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission against Renee McDaniel, Knox County treasurer candidate.
March 5, 2012
“My recommendation going in to the proceedings was to find no probable cause and to dismiss,” said Phil Richtor, staff attorney and executive director of the Ohio Elections Commission. “Whether or not that’s what the commission would have done, I can’t speak to. And, none of the commission members really commented on the case.”
The complaint, filed Monday by Republican Party Chairman Chip McConville, alleged McDaniel made false statements on a voter guide mailed out just prior to Tuesday’s primary election.
The complaint cited Section 3517.21(B) of the Ohio Revised Code which forbids political candidates from making false statements regarding candidates, sources of information, endorsement or opposition.
McConville alleged McDaniel’s use of the Republican Party logo and the “filling in the circle next to Renee McDaniel’s name,” falsely presented she was endorsed by the party.
Richtor said the mailer was obviously supporting the Republican Party but could not determine whether or not McDaniel’s intent was to present herself as the endorsed candidate.
“I can’t speak for what was in her mind,” Richtor said. “All I know is that the material that was presented to us had a lot of the indications that it was a Republican element, but it also contained the disclaimer of her campaign committee. It’s not like it listed the state Republican Party, the Knox County Republican Party or some other Republican Party. It was circulated by her campaign committee and it reflected that on the materials.”
Richtor could not answer whether or not “sample ballot” campaign material was required to list every candidate.
“What this commission is responsible for is whether there are false statements in campaign materials,” he said. “Through the years we have certainly been presented with a number of cases that involve sample ballots from both parties. I have had a variety of allegations that the commission has reviewed concerning something along those lines. In similar cases, and I can’t recall any one specifically in the past, just the mere fact that someone had been omitted had not necessarily been found to be a false statement. Whether that would have occurred here or not, I can’t speak to, because we did not get that far along in the case.”
McConville told the News he continues to stand behind his decision to file the complaint despite the fact that Richtor was going to ask for a dismissal had the case been heard by the panel.
McDaniel said her campaign committee went to great lengths to have the mailer evaluated to make sure they “were not breaking any rules.”
“I really believed I could make positive changes in the treasurer’s office,” she said. “Now I just feel attacked.”
Learning that Richtor would have voted in her favor brought some relief to McDaniel, who said she has received tremendous support throughout the county.
“This makes me feel wonderful,” she said. “There are plenty of people who think I have been mistreated. I just want my name cleared and for people to understand I didn’t do anything wrong.”