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The Suburbanite
  • Swanson could seek criminal charges against Maier

  • The Ohio Supreme Court ruled last week that Maier did not meet the legal requirements to be sheriff because he had not served in law enforcement in a full-time capacity within the past four years.
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  • The legal wrangling over the job of Stark County sheriff likely is far from over.
    Recently reinstated Stark County Sheriff Timothy Swanson said Tuesday in his first interview since returning from Florida that he plans to ask Prosecutor John D. Ferrero whether the county should pursue criminal charges against former Sheriff George T. Maier for what Swanson deems as deceiving residents and for falsely representing himself as a qualified candidate for the office. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled last week that Maier did not meet the legal requirements to be sheriff because he had not served in law enforcement in a full-time capacity within the past four years.
    When asked what the criminal charge against Maier could be, Swanson said it would be up to the prosecutor to decide. Ferrero said Tuesday evening that he had not yet talked to Swanson and could not comment.
    NO VICTORY
    Swanson said he was not looking into the issue to be vengeful, but wants to make sure residents were protected, similar to the reason that he first challenged Maier’s qualifications in court.
    “This wasn’t a victory for me,” he said. “I was just trying to ensure there was a qualified candidate in the office.”
    Maier and other county Democrats have claimed otherwise, calling Swanson’s actions political because they believe he wanted a department lieutenant, Louis Darrow, to become sheriff. Darrow lost by eight votes to Maier for the Democratic appointment.
    Swanson said Tuesday that he continues to support Darrow and believes the Stark County Democratic Party needs to act quickly to convene its Central Committee and select his successor. Otherwise, he said, he will file legal action with the Supreme Court to force the party to meet and make the appointment.
    “I don’t think this is a do-over,” Swanson said. “... I think it’s very clear cut that you did this wrong ... and now (they should) put the person in there that is qualified.”
    Randy Gonzalez, chairman of the Stark County Democratic Party, has said that he will follow state guidelines for convening a meeting. State law says the appointment must be made between five and 45 days of the vacancy.
    Maier has said that he plans to be a candidate for the appointment. He was hired as a full-time deputy at the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office Friday, according to the Harrison County Auditor’s Office. It’s unclear whether the full-time experience can be considered by Democrats for the upcoming appointment. Gonzalez already has pledged his support for Maier.
    No meeting has been set.
    Page 2 of 2 - REFUND?
    Meanwhile, Canton attorney Craig Conley wants the county to sue Maier to recoup the taxpayer money Maier received while he was sheriff. In a Tuesday letter to Ferrero, Conley said since the Supreme Court ruled Maier unlawfully held the office, he should refund the money he earned in salary, benefits, legal fees and any expenditures made by him or at his direction to add his name to the office’s stationary and signage. Conley also requested that Ferrero excuse himself from the case since the prosecutor had signed a court affidavit in support of Darrow when Darrow had sought to block the Democratic Party from appointing Maier as sheriff.
    Ferrero said he will send a letter to the three county commissioners to see whether they want to seek the refund.
    “The conflict still exists with me to do anything,” Ferrero said. “It’s truly up to commissioners. If they want to proceed, we’ll have to look for a special prosecutor to handle the case.”
    Ferrero said Conley’s request, which would be a taxpayer lawsuit, is different than Auditor Alan Harold’s decision in February to withhold Maier’s salary and not process any financial transactions that Maier had authorized due to the then-pending lawsuit filed by Swanson.
    The auditor had reversed his decision a day later when he received a letter from Ohio Auditor Dave Yost who said the state would not penalize the county for paying Maier and his staff while the court case was pending.
    “When Harold was doing it, (Maier) still was under the color of the law acting as sheriff,” Ferrero said. “He wasn’t disqualified yet, so I don’t think at that point we could say not to pay him. But after the decision, it may be a different story.”
    As of last week, the auditor’s office said Maier had earned $84,447 in salary and benefits as sheriff and had spent $13,671 to update the signage.
    Maier said last week that he added his name to the signs after receiving advice from the state sheriff’s association and other sheriffs who said the move was customary. He also said he ultimately saved the department money by ordering less expensive uniforms for dispatchers.
    Maier did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday evening.
    Reach Kelli at 330-580-8339 or on Twitter: @kyoungREP