The Warren County Prosecuting Attorney is looking into whether a Franklin City Schools Superintendent violated the law when he sent a letter home earlier this week urging parents to join him “in an active campaign to ensure Gov. (John) Kasich and any legislator who supports him are not re-elected.”
Joseph had the details of the story yesterday.
Now we learn that Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell was investigating the letter written by Arnold Elam.
Fornshell, according to the Dayton Daily News, is apparently looking into whether Elam violated a newly enacted law against using public resources for political purposes.
We’ll say this about Fornshell: he’s got a pair.
Reason One: Applying the new law to this situation is a stretch.
The new legislation was found in HB 326. This law prohibits a person from making “a direct or indirect transaction of public funds to the benefit of” a political campaign, including any party, committee or candidate. The Elam letter doesn’t violate this statute because it is not a transaction involving public funds, and it doesn’t benefit any candidate or party.
In addition, application of the statute in this situation may violate the First Amendment. Elam certainly has a protected right to express his opinion about which candidates are better for education. As a result of several U.S. Supreme Court decisions, courts now generally enforce the idea that individuals do not relinquish all of their First Amendment rights simply because they are employed by the government. The government can impose some restrictions, and perhaps he violated a school policy by using school letterhead, but this strikes us as an administrative or HR matter, not a criminal offense.
Reason Two: Fornshell is not a career prosecutor, he is a career Republican politician.
An ambitious politician wants to throw out a longtime assistant prosecutor – Rachel Hutzel – who ascended to the top job based on her experience. In making his bid, David Fornshell flings charges that he can’t back up, and he presents himself as a career prosecutor, when in fact, he’s never taken a felony case – the most serious kind – to trial. Not once. Mr. Fornshell is unmistakably not qualified to be county prosecutor, not to mention that his style and temperament are all wrong for a job that requires evenhandedness and a scrupulous sense of fairness.
Eight years later, Fornshell still has not demonstrated “evenhandedness and a scrupulous sense of fairness.” Fornshell is the former chair of the Warren County Republican Party and a current member of the county Republican Central Committee. More importantly, he seems to allow politics to play a role in his office as three assistant prosecutors who work for Fornshell are also on the County Central Committee.
Fornshell clearly has state-wide ambitions. In past elections, he has donated not only to local political campaigns, but also to John Kasich, Mike DeWine, Josh Mandel, Ken Blackwell. He has also donated to state representatives Pete Beck, Robert Mecklenborg, and Shannon Jones.
It’s hard for Fornshell to suggest that he supports “law and order” candidates when he gave money to Beck, who is under multiple investigations, and Mecklenborg, who falsified state records in order to hide a drunk driving arrest.
Fornshell is clearly more interested in punishing critics of Kasich than in enforcing the law. A prosecutor who was concerned with upholding this law would assign the case to a Democratic prosecutor from another county or a non-partisan career prosecutor in his office. Instead, Fornshell is grandstanding by giving newspaper interviews.
We are confident in this criticism because Fornshell has never opened up an investigation of corrupt election practices prohibited by Revised Code 3599.05. This section prohibits employers from posting statements in workplaces “containing any threat, notice, or information that if any particular candidate is elected or defeated work in the establishment will cease in whole or in part . . .” This section of Ohio law seems to apply directly to threats by the owners of Papa Johns and other businesses with locations in Warren County who threatened to layoff employees or cut hours if the President were re-elected.