Last week, we featured several stories on the abusive efforts of a Republican prosecutor to silence and intimidate a school superintendent who criticized Governor John Kasich’s school funding plan.
We highlighted the story of Arnol Elam, Superintendent of Franklin City Schools. Elam sent a letter to the parents and teachers of his district which said, in part, that “Governor John Kasich was untruthful . . . and in doing so, finally clarified that kids in poor school districts don’t count.”
Things got interesting when a Republican prosecutor told the media that he was opening a criminal investigation into the letter because Elam might have used public resources for a political purpose when he urged parents to vote against those who supported Kasich’s unfair school funding plan. David Fornshell, the Republican prosecutor – who remarkably doesn’t even work full-time at the job but instead retains a partnership at the Cincinnati office of Dinsmore and Shohl – is a big financial supporter of Kasich and other statewide Republicans.
A legal analysis of the possible charges found them to be pretty weak. “Bullshit” is how we later described the charges – borrowing the technical legal term from a former prosecutor we consulted – as we noted the differential treatment of friends and critics of Kasich by Republican prosecutors statewide.
We must be right because a major Republican newspaper has joined the criticism of the prosecutor. The Cincinnati Enquirer – a conservative paper generally viewed as friendly to Kasich, published an editorial harshly critical of Fornshell. The paper noted that the decision “to go after a school superintendent for speaking out is disturbing.”
The editorial praised Elam for speaking his mind and providing “a much-needed counterpoint to the spin from the governor’s office” and suggested that if he broke the law, then he should repay the taxpayers. The editorial board the obvious political motivation behind Fornshell’s actions: “Using the power of the prosecutor to investigate this dissenter is heavy-handed.”
The Enquirer continues, noting that the investigation “smacks of targeting an outspoken dissenter for prosecution” and that Fornshell’s “investigation could chill further criticism of the governor’s proposals.” The evidence of a political motive: “It’s relevant that Kasich is a Republican governor, that Fornshell chaired the Warren County Republican Party during Kasich’s election campaign and that Warren County is one of the most Republican counties in the state.
When was the last time Plunderbund and the Cincinnati Enquirer agreed?
Voices on the right and the left agree that the prosecutor is abusing his power for political purposes. A prosecutor who would do that is not fit to serve, as even the appearance of an unfair application of the criminal law undermines public confidence in the criminal justice system.