Already there are indications the race for Williams County Sheriff in 2020 could be messy and controversial. Incumbent Sheriff Steve Towns is currently facing four misdemeanors and the March 2020 Republican primary is expected to draw at least three challengers, including former sheriff’s deputy Shaun Fulk, who was certified for the March primary last month by the Williams County Elections Board and has been actively campaigning.
Late Tuesday, Elections Director A.J. Nowaczyk told election board members during their regular monthly meeting that two election complaints have recently been filed against Fulk, who acknowledges he and Towns had a falling out before Fulk resigned from the sheriff’s office in December 2018.
Fulk is now a part-time officer on the Stryker police force and also works full-time at Con Agra in Archbold.
Nowaczyk said a complaint was filed against Fulk for a campaign posting on Fulk’s campaign Facebook page showing Fulk — who is in civilian clothes — standing with uniformed deputies next to a sheriff’s office vehicle.
That complaint was referred to the county prosecutor’s office which has ruled that the posting was not a campaign violation, Nowaczyk said.
Fulk took the photo down when the complaint was filed, Nowaczyk said.
A second complaint — that Fulk was wearing his Stryker police uniform while manning a campaign booth at the Williams County Fair last week — is now with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, Nowaczyk said. The secretary of state oversees Ohio elections.
Nowaczyk told board members Fulk “had permission” to wear his uniform at the fair from Stryker Police Chief Steve Schlosser.
Two other potential candidates have pulled nominating petitions for sheriff: Pioneer Village Police Chief Tim Livengood and Edon resident Tom Kochert. Candidates for the March 2020 primary have until Dec. 30, 2019, to be certified for the ballot.
Towns has been a polarizing figure over the past several years as he has alleged instances of malfeasance by the Williams County Job & Family Services and Bryan City Schools.
Towns is facing four misdemeanor charges in relation to an incident in which he posted around 400 pages of documents related to child abuse cases and other complaints that Towns alleges chronicle systematic and investigative failure of county JFS staff.
The documents were largely redacted, but some private information was left intact. The pages were on the website for a short time and Towns has stated it was meant as a public service to inform residents about investigations that demand action.
Two charges allege Towns shared specific elements of the original documents with a person in an interview room at the sheriff’s office.
In all, Towns faces two counts of improperly disclosing confidential information in violation of Ohio Revised Code 102.03, a first-degree misdemeanor, and two counts of improperly releasing child abuse reports in violation of ORC 2151.421, a fourth-degree misdemeanor.
If convicted on the charges, Towns faces a maximum possible sentence of 14 months in jail and a fine of $2,500, and could not serve as sheriff.