Trumbull prosecutor changes position on helping with PAC probe

WARREN — After declining a request from the Trumbull County Board of Elections to ask various state agencies to investigate a political action committee, the county prosecutor’s office agreed to offer assistance in identifying the proper entity for review.

The board unanimously voted Tuesday to accept the prosecutor’s assistance in finding the correct state and / or federal agency to investigate the actions of the TCR Grassroots PAC during the most recent election.

Board member Marleah Campbell, who is also the county Republican Party’s secretary, said: “It goes straight to election interference and election fraud.” She added that people have the right to know who is funding campaigns.

“It’s all about transparency,” Campbell said.

Board member Arno Hill, a Republican, said: “We can’t let people form phony PACs.”

County Commissioner Denny Malloy, a Republican who has clashed with officers in the county GOP, said at the meeting that he has emails, voicemails and recordings of Campbell “bullying” him and others with false claims of “an illegal PAC.”

Malloy said Campbell is “playing judge, jury and prosecutor on this.”

He also said Campbell has a “long feud” with Regina McManus, a political consultant who serves as the PAC’s treasurer and designated agent. McManus ran Malloy’s successful 2022 commissioner campaign.

A statement of organization, signed by McManus on March 11 and filed with the Federal Election Commission, lists her as the PAC’s treasurer and designated agent.

Malloy said of Campbell: “She is clearly driving this investigation against someone who’s a political enemy. She’s clearly got a vendetta.”

He called for Campbell to recuse herself because she is “tainted” and “has a bias. If she continues to vote on this, there will be repercussions.”

Malloy said he welcomed an investigation into the PAC because it did nothing improper and when that is finished, “I demand an apology.”

He added: “There’s going to be major egg on the board’s face.”

Malloy said he has no involvement with the PAC.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Campbell said it was important for the public to know the board is taking action “because they want integrity in their elections.”

Campbell told Malloy: “I find it funny that you are trying so hard to fight for this PAC.”

Reached after the meeting, McManus said her friendship “went sour a few years ago. Since that time, Marleah Campbell has a personal vendetta with me.”

McManus said she doesn’t understand why Campbell “takes it out on our Republican candidates,” and “why any Republican official would want to bully TCR and try to silence a group that is making a difference in Trumbull County.”

McManus also said Campbell should have recused herself from the vote.

The board of elections voted March 19, the day of the primary, to request the county prosecutor file a complaint on its behalf regarding the PAC because it didn’t file a designation of treasurer and campaign finance reports.

The board wanted the prosecutor’s office to file a complaint with the FEC, the Ohio Elections Commission, the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

The prosecutor’s office subsequently denied the request saying it doesn’t file such complaints on behalf of its clients.

McManus recently said the PAC properly filed with the FEC.

The board was going to decide Tuesday if it would take it upon itself to seek an investigation from one or more of those bodies.

But board Chairman Mark Alberini said Tuesday that the prosecutor’s office sent a five-page letter late Monday stating it would assist the board with identifying the appropriate entities to file a request for investigation.

Alberini specifically mentioned the FEC, the Ohio Elections Commission and the secretary of state when discussing the potential investigation.

The board declined to release the prosecutor’s letter to this newspaper citing attorney-client privilege.

The board won’t handle the investigation itself, Alberini said, because that is not its responsibility.

Alberini said the board received “concerns over this PAC by several individuals” and it needs to forward that information to the correct investigative authority.

“I think we’re heading in the right direction,” Campbell said.

McManus recently said the PAC “was created and registered with the federal government” with the goal of promoting “strong Republican conservative values in our local political system. As a federal PAC, there is no coordination with any candidate or candidates. We had an exceptionally successful (primary) night. We take seriously any local board attempting to impair our First Amendment rights.”

The PAC distributed slate cards of recommended candidates, primarily for county and judicial offices as well as for two state House seats and one U.S. House race.

Rick Hernandez, who beat incumbent Commissioner Niki Frenchko in the Republican primary and was on the PAC’s slate card, has publicly thanked McManus as his campaign manager.

McManus also distributed the slate cards in front of the board of elections during early voting.

Pointing to state and federal laws, McManus said slate cards are not considered expenditures.


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