Former Stark County Sheriff Timothy Swanson filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday afternoon that seeks to remove Sheriff George T. Maier from the office, reinstall him as sheriff and then force the Stark County Democratic Central Committee to choose a new sheriff from the two remaining qualified candidates.
Former Stark County Sheriff Timothy Swanson wants the Ohio Supreme Court to remove George Maier as his successor.
Swanson’s attorneys filed a lawsuit Tuesday afternoon seeking to remove Maier, who took office as sheriff Friday, reinstall Swanson as sheriff and then force the Stark County Democratic Central Committee to choose a new sheriff from the two remaining qualified candidates: Stark County Sheriff Lt. Louis Darrow and Hartville Police Chief Lawrence Dordea.
The filing essentially replaces the lawsuit filed last week by Darrow that sought to block the Democratic Central Committee from choosing Maier.
Attorney Greg Beck, who is representing both Darrow and Swanson, said he withdrew Darrow’s lawsuit Tuesday because the filing became moot following the committee’s vote last week. The committee selected Maier over Darrow by a 92 to 84 vote. Dordea received one vote.
Beck said Swanson’s lawsuit contends that Maier is unlawfully holding the sheriff’s post because he doesn’t have the proper credentials.
He said Maier doesn’t meet at least two statutory qualifications: That he has served as a full-time officer within the past four years, and that he either held the rank of at least corporal within the last five years or has the education and law training that would be equivalent to a two-year, post-secondary education.
Maier, a longtime state trooper who served as Massillon’s safety service director for the past year, has said that he believes his law-enforcement experience and training are equivalent to the qualifications defined in the law.
While he ended his 24-year career with the Ohio Highway Patrol in 2007, Maier said he meets the full-time employment requirement because he held a peace officer commission while assistant director at the Ohio Department of Public Safety for four years, leaving the office in July 2011. Maier also was hired as a full-time deputy in Harrison County on Jan. 6, records show.
Maier also believes that his years at the state Department of Public Safety satisfies the supervisory requirement because an assistant director ranks above a corporal.
For the education component, Maier produced a Jan. 14 letter and transcript from Stark State College that says his previous years of training and work experience as well as credits he earned at other institutions would be the equivalent of 67 college-level semester hours. That’s higher than the 60 semester hours needed for a two-year post-secondary education.
Assistant Stark County Prosecutor Ross Rhodes said Tuesday that he had not seen Swanson’s complaint. By law, the prosecutor’s office serves as legal counsel for Maier in his capacity as county sheriff. However, Prosecutor John D. Ferrero filed an affidavit as part of Darrow’s lawsuit. In the filed, Ferrero said Maier’s service as an assistant director for the public safety department fails to meet the law’s supervisory requirements and that Maier’s college equivalent credit hours would be valid if he had completed 12 hours at the college, which he didn’t do.
“Our office will most likely stay out of it,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes said commissioners will have to consider whether to appoint a special prosecutor.
The county is no stranger to the type of lawsuit filed by Swanson. It is the same legal maneuver that former Stark County Treasurer Gary Zeigler used in 2010 to reclaim his elected position. County commissioners had removed Zeigler from office following the discovery that Zeigler’s chief deputy stole millions of dollars from the office over several years. The Ohio Supreme Court found that the state law commissioners used was unconstitutional and reinstated Zeigler, who later resigned as part of a settlement.