Panel: Spies Broke The Law

By Lee Morrison, The Times-Reporter
Posted 11/3/2008

Ohio Elections Commission members on Monday found a violation of Ohio election law against Amanda Spies, Tuscarawas County prosecutor, based on Ohio Revised Code, and issued a reprimand against her.

The complaint filed by challenger Ryan Styer cited an Oct. 21 advertisement in The Times-Reporter that stated “her opponent has no prosecutorial experience.” The ruling was unanimous by five of the full commission’s seven members.

In an earlier, unanimous decision during a probable cause hearing, a four-member panel dismissed Democrat Spies’ complaint against Styer.

Spies and Styer attended both sessions and presented oral arguments.

Commission members found that by including the “no experience” statements in her campaign advertisement, Spies violated state law by “clear and convincing evidence.” As the penalty for the violation, the commission decided not to refer the matter for further prosecution but determined to issue a letter of public reprimand. She also was instructed not to include the statements in any future campaign or campaign materials.

The findings of the commission and a copy of the reprimand will become a part of permanent records of the commission, according to a release signed by William L. Ogg, OEC chairman.

“I feel exonerated, and I’m glad that there’s a process to hold folks accountable when they cross the line,” Styer said. “I think it’s easy to point fingers in a sound bite, but today all the facts were put on the table in front of a five-judge panel, and I think the truth prevailed. I’m very pleased with the outcome.”

Spies said she will request reconsideration of the finding of no probable cause. “The outcome of the proceedings upon the complaint filed by the Tuscarawas County Democratic Party and myself is regrettable because the commission failed to follow the recommendations of its own (Executive Director Phil Richter),” Spies said in a press release.

“The executive director viewed there to be probable cause that my opponent violated Ohio election law as to the false and misleading nature of several critical allegations my opponent has used in this campaign. The false and misleading statements by my opponent include: his distortion of the number of felony cases that have been dismissed or plea bargained, my alleged unavailability to law enforcement and my opponent’s claim to be the only candidate who regularly tries cases.

“The commission’s executive director recommended that the commission conduct a full hearing on each of these points. In my view, the voters of Tuscarawas County are entitled to the truth before they go to the polls. Unfortunately, the commission denied this opportunity by not following its own executive director’s recommendations.”

Contacted about Spies’ statement, Richter said, “People often use my statements in various degrees.”

He said he did recommend the full, seven-member commission hear the case.

“I made a variety of other statements as well,” he said, adding that he tries not to get involved in cases, and Spies not using his comments in their entirety is “between her and her conscience.”

The full commission is seven members and a ruling is by a simple majority vote. Going by the 4-0 vote, the best Spies could hope for would be 4-3 against her filing, unless one of the four changed his mind.

Styer said, “Her approach clearly was retaliatory and reactive to the fact that we filed a complaint against her. She took a shotgun approach and truly threw in about everything but the kitchen sink, hoping something would stick. Fortunately, the commission saw it for what it was and saw that there was no factual basis to her allegations.”

The filing by Spies also listed the Tuscarawas County Democratic Party as a complainant against Styer and the Styer for Prosecutor Committee.

By OEC policy, the complaint is limited to eight pages. The remainder of the 103-page filing was attachments of campaign materials dating back to September 2007, done “knowingly and with intent to adversely affect the outcome of (Spies’) nomination and re-election campaign. ...” Another point in the filing states Styer’s actions “are intended to cause humiliation and embarrassment to (Spies), both professionally and personally, as well as to the Tuscarawas County Democratic Party.”