Ohio attorney general accuses candidate of campaign misconduct
LISBON — Two strongly worded letters from Ohio Attorney General David Yost and the Columbiana County Republicans accuse Democratic county prosecutor candidate John Gamble of violating the Little Hatch Act regarding his campaign Facebook page.
Yost’s letter points to photographs depicting a large group of law enforcement officers from around the county posing with Gamble on the steps of the county courthouse and taken around the time he announced his bid for county prosecutor. The photos appear on the Facebook campaign page for John Gamble for Prosecutor with a caption that says “Pictured here — over 500 years of law enforcement experience standing with John Gamble. They have his back in this election because he’s had their backs for the last 30 years.”
The letter claims the page was brought to Yost’s attention and that Ohio’s Little Hatch Act prohibits officers or employees in the classified service of the state, several counties, cities, school districts and civil service townships from engaging in partisan political activities.
The letter further warns that failure to remove these photos and endorsements from his website and campaign materials could result in a criminal complaint being filed against him, an unclassified misdemeanor.
Both letters were forwarded to the (Lisbon) Morning Journal.
The county Republican Party letter, signed by chairman David Johnson, points specifically to the Salem and East Liverpool officers, who are in classified service of the respective cities and therefore would fall under the definition of those unable to take part in partisan politics. Suggesting the officers were solicited or possibly pressured to show their support for Gamble, Johnson’s letter also points to the Ohio Revised Code sections regarding both political campaign violations as well as to complicity to committing an offense.
“It is frankly, astonishing that after bragging about your 30 years of legal experience, your first act as an appointed candidate for county prosecutor would be to knowingly violate state law by encouraging (pressuring?) law enforcement officers of the classified service to violate the law,” Johnson wrote. “If this is what has been going on at the county prosecutor’s office, then we need a change in that office even more than I realized.”
Gamble, currently the chief assistant county prosecutor, is running against Republican challenger Vito Abruzzino for the job of long-time county prosecutor Robert Herron, who recently decided to leave the race.
Gamble fired back about the attack Thursday in a written statement.
“I am stunned that my opponent would have local law enforcement officers charged for expressing their political opinions,” Gamble wrote. “I understand that my opponent can’t stand the fact that I have the overwhelming support of local police officers. His claim that these police officers have committed a crime is outrageous and wholly bogus. If my opponent had even prosecuted one case in this state, he might understand that.”
Gamble said on Thursday he had not received the letters from Yost and the Republicans. He questioned the letters being sent to the newspaper instead of to him, calling it “a demonstration that this is nothing more than a cheap political stunt.”
“This is simply an attempt to divert attention from the fact that my opponent is grossly unqualified for the position he seeks,” Gamble said in a written statement. “The people of Columbiana County deserve better than this.”
Gamble also pointed to photos on Yost’s own taxpayer funded Ohio Attorney General website and Facebook page picturing Yost with several law enforcement officers.