A Councilman Cries "Foul"
As the November 6 election approaches, City Councilmember Tony Mealy recently filed two separate complaints against fellow council members David Ashenhurst and Charles Peterson and Council candidates David Sonner and John Baumann. Ashenhurst and Peterson voted with the majority on the City Council to censure Councilman Mealy in August for disclosing the proceedings of a Council executive session.
Mealy filed a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission last Friday, claiming that Ashenhurst violated Ohio Ethics Codes by involving himself in city council discussions regarding David Sonner’s appointment to the Oberlin Planning Commission.
Mealy’s letter acknowledges, and the minutes from October 16, 2006 show, that Ashenhurst recused himself from the council’s deliberation on Sonner’s appointment.
In his complaint, Mealy wrote that Ashenhurst took part in the working session, seconded Sonner’s nomination and withdrew himself after Mealy challenged him and Ashenhurst consulted the Law Director Eric Severs about the appropriate course of action. Sonner, who is now running for City Council, and Ashenhurst were involved in Ohio Renewable Energy Resources as business associates.
Ashenhurst told the Review that Law Director Eric Severs found that the Ohio Ethics Commission guidelines allow an elected offåicial to discuss the possible appointment of a business associate to a position so long as the position is not paid. Severs did not respond to requests for an interview in time for publication.
The second charge in the complaint is that in 2006 David Ashenhurst allegedly used a city computer for business not related to City Council. Ashenhurst stated he was initially under the impression the computer was meant for city council members’ convenience. Once informed otherwise, Ashenhurst claimed to have stopped using the computer. Ashenhurst also maintains that all the work he has done in the council office was for city-related issues.
In addition to the Ohio Ethics Commission complaint, Mealy filed a complaint with the Lorain County Board of Elections regarding a letter sent by Mary and John Picken asking voters to choose candidates other than incumbent City Councilmembers Tony Mealy, Ronnie Rimbert and Everett Tyree because of their views on the East College Street Development. The complaint rests on the charge that the letter is a campaign advertisement, since Mrs. Picken is listed as Councilman Charles Petersen’s campaign treasurer, according to a nominating petition Mealy turned over to the Review Wednesday afternoon.
The Review was unable to obtain a copy of the complaint in time for publication; however, Director of the Board of Elections José Candelario explained, “The basis of the complaint is whether or not individuals circulated a certain letter in coordination with the committee of a particular candidate. Basically, if it was, then the remedy is simply that the candidate would include the benefit that he received…on the committee’s campaign report if the committee is even required to file a campaign report.”
Of the timing of the ethics complaints filed against him, Ashenhurst said, “This is Tony’s idea of a November surprise.”