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TRUMBULL COUNTY Board: Praznik to stay on ballot



Published: Sat, March 22, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The classified worker who passed petitions is also a precinct committeeman.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- Turning in a re-election petition circulated by a sewage treatment plant employee will not affect Hubbard Mayor George Praznik's place on the May primary ballot, the Trumbull County Board of Elections has ruled.

The board declined to take any action Tuesday based on a complaint raised by Arthur U. Magee, Praznik's rival in the Democratic primary. Magee said the law was broken when city employees passed petitions for Praznik.

"The circulating of petitions in a partisan race [by classified employees] is prohibited, but the remedy for that is not to strike the petition," said Jim Saker, an assistant county prosecutor who advises the board of elections. "My opinion is the petitions should be allowed."

Even without the petitions circulated by city workers, Praznik had enough signatures to get on the ballot, said Lyn Augustine, elections board director.

Magee questioned seven petition circulators who worked for the city, but law director Gary Gilmartin determined that only Edward Pompili Jr., a sewage treatment plant worker, is a classified employee.

Prohibited from activity

Classified employees -- generally those who also enjoy civil-service protection -- are prohibited by the federal Hatch Act from partisan political activity.

As well as passing petitions, Pompili is a Democratic precinct committeeman, board records show.

Participating in prohibited political activity is a misdemeanor, punishable by six months in jail and a $500 fine, Saker said. It also can be cause to discipline or remove the employee, he added.

Praznik has said he did not know city employees were not allowed to participate in political activity.

"Even though ignorance of the law is no excuse, it is a law that didn't apply to him anyway," said Atty. Ronald Rice, Praznik's lawyer.

Magee already has sent a letter to the county prosecutor's office requesting a criminal investigation. Pompili did not return a message left at his job.

Because the Hatch Act violation is a misdemeanor offense, any prosecution would probably be pursued by the Girard Municipal Court prosecutor or Hubbard law director, Saker said.




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