Nearly a month after voters rejected the Sugarcreek-Bellbrook school levy, more police reports of vandalized political signs have surfaced and the Ohio Elections Commission will be deciding on complaints filed against the person who spear-headed the “vote no” campaign.
The OEC received a total of four complaints, three against resident John Stafford and one against Facebook relevant to the page Stafford administers.
The commission will be determining whether there were elections violations and whether a fine will be imposed, according to OEC Executive Director Phil Richter.
The commission could also refer the complaints to the county prosecutor’s office for a potential criminal case, but the complaints against Stafford do not appear to rise to that level, Richter said.
Those complaints include not registering with the local elections board and not including a disclaimer on election-related content.
“For someone before the commission for the first time, generally the commission will find good cause not to impose a fine,” Richter said. “The commission tends to reserve referral of criminal matters for the most egregious types of cases.”
Derek Clinger, Stafford’s attorney, said they have reviewed the complaints and find them “completely frivolous.”
“We fully expect the commission to dismiss them,” Clinger said. “We will also request the commission to impose attorney’s fees sanctions on the complainants for filing these frivolous actions.”
The Dayton Daily News has requested and obtained four police reports, three from Sugarcreek Twp. and one from the city of Bellbrook, relevant to political signs being stolen, defaced or otherwise damaged during the campaign.
A May 8 report has led to a misdemeanor theft charge against 56-year-old David Michael Allison, a Beavercreek Twp. resident who pleaded not guilty in Xenia Municipal Court to stealing “vote no” signs that were posted along Feedwire Road.
Sugarcreek Twp. police interviewed a student in mid-April after photos surfaced on social media that showed “vote yes” signs burning in a fire. No arrest was made.
In early April, a Sugarcreek Twp. resident reported someone spray-painted “no” over a “vote yes” sign that was posted in a yard on Soaring Heights Drive. No one was arrested in that incident either.
In March, police were called regarding a menacing complaint where Stafford was distributing signs. The complainant, Jennifer Alexander-Prugh, said signs from both sides were removed from her neighborhood because it violated the homeowners association rules. She said more should have been done because Stafford hadn’t registered according to the state’s election rules.
“He’s threatened to take so many of us to court over the tiniest things. It’s really disrupted this community” Alexander-Prugh said.
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Stafford said he’s missing 287 “vote no” signs and has offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to the person or persons who took them. He said some have come forward wanting to claim the reward, but decided not to after being asked to file a police report.
“Throughout this whole campaign, the only signs that are being vandalized are ours,” Stafford said.
The OEC meets June 13 and will decide on the complaints filed against Stafford.
The school board has discussed the district’s financial forecast, but no decision has been made whether to return to the ballot in November with a new tax proposal.
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