close
close
Local

Ross Co. sheriff faces scrutiny for alleged double standard after suspending deputy in election

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — An investigation by The Guardian found that several Ross County deputies signed Sheriff George Lavender's re-election petition, some doing so while on duty, raising questions about enforcement of the law. of political activity within the sheriff's office.

The controversy began in April when a sheriff's deputy was suspended for three days after signing the nomination petition of Isaac Oberer, Sheriff Lavender's opponent. Personnel records show Sheriff Lavender justified the suspension by citing the ban on political activities for employees, saying the deputy could have been fired despite nearly 20 years of service.

However, the situation has become increasingly complex. The same deputy had been asked by Sheriff Lavender to sign his re-election petition while on duty just 11 months earlier – and he did so, albeit under duress as his boss hovered over him for demand it. A Guardian of Lavender review of the petition reveals that nearly a dozen deputies signed the sheriff's re-election petition, but only the deputy who signed Oberer's petition was suspended. One of those signatures was that of the chief deputy's wife, who is a lieutenant with the sheriff's office. In fact, she signed the sheriff's petition twice — an act that is not permitted under state law.

“The application of the rules appears to be selective and retaliatory,” said a source close to the investigation. “If signing petitions is prohibited, then this should apply equally to all employees, regardless of which petition they sign.”

Sheriff Lavender did not respond to requests for comment on the allegations. Meanwhile, Oberer, a former sheriff's office deputy who is running as an independent, continues to face obstacles in his campaign. Oberer was fired by Lavender in March, and his petition to run for sheriff is being challenged by a Lavender surrogate – for the second time.

“The sheriff should just be a man and confront the kid in November,” a local farmer told the Guardian. “Why does the sheriff want Oberer deported so badly? Shouldn't voters have the right to decide?

Ohio Administrative Rule 3349-8-70 allows employees to engage in certain political activities, including signing nominating petitions. The rule states: “Examples of permitted activities for…employees include: …. Circulation of nonpartisan petitions or petitions expressing opinions on legislation; Sign nomination petitions in support of individuals….”

Despite this, the MP who signed both petitions was only penalized for supporting Oberer. The dozen other MPs who signed Lavender's petition have not faced any disciplinary action, raising concerns about fairness and possible abuse of power.

The community remains divided on the issue on social media, with some calling for an independent review of the sheriff's office's practices. The race between Lavender and Oberer has been fraught with tension, including public protests and accusations of administrative interference by the sheriff.

The Board of Elections will hold a public meeting Monday at the county courthouse at 2:30 p.m. to consider Lavender's latest attempt to remove Oberer from the ballot.

Related Articles

Back to top button