ST. CLAIRSVILLE Recently elected Belmont County Sheriff Dave Lucas has set about performing the day-to-day operations of his new position.
Lucas has been sworn in. He's now going about putting his spin on the department, getting deputies in order and putting a plan in place to move the department forward.
Lucas, a Republican, defeated Democratic candidate Dick Flanagan during the November general election.
But there is still controversy surrounding that election, which escalated this past week when Flanagan filed a falsification complaint against Lucas with the St. Clairsville Police Department.
Flangan's cousin and attorney, Mark Landers, is planning to file a quo warranto action with the Ohio Supreme Court.
Quo warrantos are "issued against a person or corporation for usurpation, misuse, or abuse of public office or corporate office or franchise."
These actions took place after separate petitions filed by Landers and his brother Gary against Lucas' election and qualifications to be sheriff were denied by the Belmont County Board of Elections.
Mark's petition was invalid because he is not a resident of Belmont County. The Bellaire native lives near Columbus.
Gary Landers' petition was voided because it was filed after the allotted time to do so. It was also struck down because Gary Landers, a registered Democrat, is of a different political party than Lucas, which is a determining factor by statute in who can file a petition.
The central issue of Lucas' qualifications surrounds his employment history.
Section 311.01 (8)(a) of the Ohio Revised Code states that a qualified candidate for sheriff:
"Has obtained or held, within the four-year period ending immediately prior to the qualification date, a valid basic peace officer certificate of training issued by the Ohio peace officer training commission or has been issued a certificate of training pursuant to section 5503.05 of the Revised Code, and, within the four-year period ending immediately prior to the qualification date, has been employed as an appointee pursuant to section 5503.01 of the Revised Code or as a full-time peace officer as defined in section 109.71 of the Revised Code performing duties related to the enforcement of statutes, ordinances, or codes."
It's Lucas' status as a full-time peace officer that has been called into question.
Lucas' application for certification as a viable candidate lists his retirement date from the Belmont County Sheriff's Office as a full-time officer as Oct. 31, 2007.
After that, Lucas is listed as being employed by BCSO from 2007 until present as a reserve officer.
This was included in the qualification packet that Judge Jennifer Sargus' received and subsequently signed off on, giving her report back to the Belmont County Board of Elections.
Lucas has repeatedly stated his qualifications were valid, including releasing this statement:
"This issue was addressed through the election board in the past. My qualifications were certified by the judge and the election board. The people of Belmont County elected me to do a job and I'm going to do that job."
Lucas was appointed as a reserve officer, effective Oct. 31, 2007, easily distinguishable on paperwork sent from former sheriff Fred Thompson's office to Judge Sargus.
The appointment history lists that position, along with Lucas' full-time position with the BCSO and his part-time job with the Barnesville Police Department from 1978-1981.Those three positions are the only ones listed on his official work history that was submitted for qualification certification.
However, on the listing for reserve officer, a check mark was next to special, not full-time, on appointment status.
"If you look at the sheriff's office web page, it says you have to perform 16 hours a month of voluntary time," Mark Landers said. "According to Ohio Revised Code, he has had to have been a full-time police officer within four years of the certification date. He was not."
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out. Someone falsified paperwork and it got through the system. Now let's go ahead and let them serve, even though they don't meet the qualifications."
Thompson filed a similar petition back during the primary, bringing up the issue of Lucas' qualifications. Thompson's petition too was denied because, like Gary Landers, he is a registered Democrat.
"Fred Thompson filed is protest on Dec. 23, 2011," Landers said. "He was a different party, but that didn't change the facts of his petition. The election board was put on notice that (Lucas') qualifications better be looked into."
Landers said there is some discrepancy as to whom should have looked into Lucas' qualifications: Judge Sargus or the Board of Elections.
When asked during a regular meeting about examining the qualifications, multiple board members cited they relied on Sargus' findings.
"We accepted Judge Sargus' information," board member Carl Lehman had said during that meeting.
A correspondence between Sargus and the election board reads that:
"Attached please find the necessary order verifying that Dave Lucas has fulfilled the requirements of Ohio Revised Code Section 311.01 as determined by this Court in its assigned capacity."
However, ORC Section 311.01 (F)(1) and (2) state that:
(F)(1) Each person who is a candidate for election to or who is under consideration for appointment to the office of sheriff shall swear before the administrative judge of the court of common pleas as to the truth of any information the person provides to verify the person's qualifications for the office. A person who violates this requirement is guilty of falsification under section 2921.13 of the Revised Code.
(2) Each board of elections shall certify whether or not a candidate for the office of sheriff who has filed a declaration of candidacy, a statement of candidacy, or a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate meets the qualifications specified in divisions (B) and (C) of this section.
For now, Lucas will continue to serve as sheriff as he intended. How Landers' motion in court and the St. Clairsville Police Department's investigation into Flanagan's complaint pan out may determine for how long.
Hughes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org