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The Suburbanite
  • Darrow lawsuit aimed at stopping Maier's run for sheriff

  • On the eve of a Stark County Democratic Party meeting to appoint a new sheriff, one of the candidates filed a lawsuit aimed at trying to prevent another applicant from getting the job.

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  • On the eve of a Stark County Democratic Party meeting to appoint a new sheriff, one of the candidates filed a lawsuit aimed at trying to prevent another applicant from getting the job.
    Stark County Sheriff Lt. Louis Darrow contends that George Maier, Massillon’s safety-service director, does not meet the legal qualifications for the position.
    Members of the Stark County Democratic Party’s Central Committee are scheduled to make their pick at a meeting tonight.
    The committee will fill a vacancy created after Sheriff-elect Michael McDonald stepped down due to an undisclosed medical condition. Democratic Party Chairman Randy Gonzalez said the tonight’s meeting will go forward unless there is a court order to block it.
    On Monday, Darrow and his attorney, Gregory Beck, asked the Ohio Supreme Court to weigh in, challenging whether Maier’s work history and education meet the legal requirements to become county sheriff.
    Darrow has worked for the Sheriff’s Department for 26 years, and is endorsed by Timothy Swanson, who agreed to stay on as sheriff until the appointment.
    “After much thought and consideration, I decided that I had an ethical and moral responsibility to go forward with this suit — for the good of the Stark County Sheriff’s Office, the citizens of this county and my party,” Darrow said in a statement released late Monday afternoon.
    Maier said he had not seen the court filing as of late Monday afternoon.
    “I do feel that I am qualified for the position,” he said.
    “It’s unfortunate because I think some people are making some determinations based on limited information,” Maier said.
    Maier asked an attorney, Thomas L. Rosenberg, to review whether his background and experience qualifies him to run for sheriff. The attorney said Maier qualifies.
    The third candidate for the appointment, Hartville Police Chief Lawrence Dordea, is considered a long shot since he is a Republican. Darrow and Maier are both Democrats.
    MAKING THE ARGUMENT
    Maier, who is a reserve deputy for the Stark County Sheriff’s Office, served as a trooper with the Ohio State Highway Patrol from 1983 through 2007 and later became assistant director of the                                               Ohio Department of Public Safety.
    In the court complaint, Darrow contends that Maier has not held the rank of corporal or above in the last five years nor has he worked in the last four years as a full-time peace officer in a rank of corporal, sergeant or above in which he performed supervisory duties.
    Stark County Prosecutor John D. Ferrero has publicly supported Darrow and added an accompanying affidavit to Darrow’s lawsuit.
    In the filing, Ferrero questions whether Maier’s service at the Department of Public Safety is equivalent to a full-time peace officer at the rank of corporal or above.
    Page 2 of 2 - Maier said that his experience with the Public Safety office does meet the state requirements for law enforcement experience.
    As the assistant director, from May 2007 through January 2011, Maier was a commissioned peace officer through the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy. In that job, Maier said he was “in the chain of command.”
    “I think someone is getting hung up on rank,” Maier said .
    “The spirit of this law is to ensure that someone has law enforcement supervisory experience,” he added.
    HIGHER EDUCATION
    Another point of contention is Maier’s educational experience.
    Maier said he’s enrolled at Stark State College but hasn’t yet had any classes.
    He contends his law training and prior education were reviewed by Stark State officials and he was told he had enough to meet the sheriff’s requirements: Two years of post secondary education or its equivalent.
    “I provided (Stark State) with a transcript of credit hours from other universities and they take a look at your life experiences and weigh that into the process,” Maier said.
    “I registered to be a student, but have not sat down with them or developed a program to finalize a degree — I haven’t done that yet.”
    In the affidavit, Ferrero questions Maier’s  interpretation of a law that allows a college to review an individual’s non-accredited training and experience to determine college equivalency.
    Ferrero contends the applicant must have at least 12 credit hours at the school for the work and training equivalency to apply.
    MORE REACTION
    Darrow’s lawsuit also names Gonzalez as a defendant.
    Reached Monday, Gonzalez said he had attorney Michael Thompson review Maier’s work history on behalf of the party. They both say Maier meets the requirements for the sheriff’s job.
    “He is absolutely qualified,” Gonzalez said.
    Thompson called the lawsuit a desperate “last-ditch effort, 11th-hour attempt” to sway votes of the Central Committee. I believe (the lawsuit’s) claims are without merit.”
    Repository City Editor Dave Sereno contributed to this report