The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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May 8, 2012

Sheriff gets hearing rescheduled

ASHTABULA — Sheriff William Johnson’s preliminary hearing before the Ohio Elections Commission has been rescheduled for next month, said Commission Chairman Philip Richter.

The hearing was originally set for Thursday, but Johnson requested it be rescheduled as he is vacationing outside the state. Richter agreed to move the hearing to the commission’s June 14 agenda.

Two complaints against Johnson’s campaign were filed with the commission in March by Jefferson resident Steve Magda. The complaints allege that the sheriff, in 2011, accepted 13 campaign contributions from corporations. A second complaint alleges that his campaign accepted 43 corporate donations from 2004 to 2007.

The Ohio Revised Code prohibits candidates from receiving contributions from corporations.

Johnson said last month that he has since returned the donations to the corporations. He said the total of the donations was in the thousands of dollars range, but that the money was in his campaign account all along and had not been spent.

The sheriff has insisted he was not trying to hide anything. His campaign report included photocopies of the checks from the corporations.

Richter said the hearing will provide both parties an opportunity to state their case before the commission. A decision could be issued that day, or the matter could be held for further review.

Magda requested from the Ashtabula County Board of Elections all of the campaign finance reports from all candidates who have filed in the county. He said he is reviewing the statements for any infractions of election law.

Magda’s wife, Kathy, is running on the Republican ticket for county treasurer, and Johnson and Randy Gentry will face off on the November general election ballot.

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