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The Suburbanite
  • Lawsuit demands that Maier repay taxpayers

  • The suit seeks repayment of $123,583 for the nine months George T. Maier spent working as county sheriff,
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  • George T. Maier should repay Stark County taxpayers $123,583 for the nine months he spent working as county sheriff, a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Stark County Common Pleas Court claims.
    Attorney Craig Conley and his client, Bethlehem Township resident Thomas Marcelli, want Maier to return to taxpayers $88,511 in salary and benefits, $13,671 used by Maier to affix his name to signs, vehicles and stationery, $1,400 to secure a bond for Maier, and $20,000 of attorneys' fees paid by the county to fight the lawsuit that led to Maier's removal from office.
    "It's a big pile of dough," Conley said, "and he just needs to write a check and make the taxpayers' whole."
    Conley and Marcelli have pursued similar complaints in the past, including a taxpayer lawsuit in a separate matter earlier this year against Stark County Common Pleas Judge Frank Forchione after Forchione ordered a man to pay $5,000 of fine money to an out-of-state charity tied to the Sandy Hook school shootings. Forchione later asked the charity to return the funds. Marcelli also led a referendum campaign in 2009 against an imposed countywide sales tax.
    In the latest lawsuit, Conley writes that "Maier unlawfully usurped the office ... and therefore is personally liable to the taxpayers of Stark County..."
    Maier said he had not seen the lawsuit.
    "I was there based on what the Auditor of Ohio Dave Yost said," Maier said, referring to Yost's opinion in February that he should be recognized as sheriff until the Supreme Court ruled otherwise. "I was there under the color of the law. I believe legally I was entitled to the compensation I received. I was there doing the work and some days a little extra, because that's just my makeup. I'm not sorry for it."
    Conley called the argument "nonsense."
    "He was paid as though he were sheriff," he said. "He rebranded everything as though he were sheriff. He spent money as though he were sheriff. Well, he wasn't."
    Stark County Commissioner Thomas Bernabei said last week that commissioners had no plans to ask Maier to refund the money.
    The lawsuit is the latest in the dispute over who should hold the sheriff's office. Sheriff-elect Michael McDonald vacated at the start of the year due to a terminal illness. Stark County commissioners appointed retired Sheriff Timothy Swanson to stay on as interim sheriff until McDonald's replacement could be named.
    The Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee appointed Maier, a former safety-service director for the city of Massillon and assistant director at the Ohio Department of Public Safety, to the position on Feb. 5.
    Swanson, however, challenged the move through the court system, asking the Ohio Supreme Court to remove Maier because he did not meet the legal qualifications to hold the position. The court agreed with Swanson, ruling last month that Maier illegally held the position because he had not served as a full-time peace officer within four years of the appointment.
    Page 2 of 2 - Swanson is now asking the court to install Lt. Louis Darrow, who finished eight votes behind Maier in the Feb. 5 vote, as sheriff, or prevent any applicants other than those qualified at the time of the original vote to be considered when county Democrats meet on Dec. 11.
    Reach Matthew at 330-580-8527 or on Twitter: @mrinkREP