Williams County Sheriff Steve Towns, on Tuesday, filed with the Ohio Supreme Court to get his name on the ballot for re-election in the March 17 Republican primary election.
On Jan. 3, responding to complaints from other candidates on the ballot, who cited the Ohio Revised Code section that stated that a candidate can not run for the office of county sheriff if convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor, the Williams County Board of Elections voted unanimously to remove Towns’ name from the ballot.
Towns, in November was convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor in Bryan Municipal Court — the charge related to his dissemination of information regarding child abuse and neglect cases. In late 2018, he released, according to prosecutors, about 600 pages on his office’s website. At least one of those pages contained enough information to be able to identify a hospital emergency room nurse associated with investigation of a child abuse case.
Among Towns’ claims for action by the high court is that the proper course of action for a complaint against him would have been for someone to lodge a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission.
Towns claims the conviction is void under the due process clauses of the Ohio and U.S. constitutions because he was not afforded the protections of the mandatory procedures provided by the Ohio Ethics Commission.
Towns’ claim states that “before a person can be criminally prosecuted for violating (that portion of the Ohio Revised Code that was applied to his ballot removal) a complaint must be filed with the Ohio Ethics Commission, which will investigate the complaint, hold a hearing, and possibly refer the matter for prosecution.”
His prosecution, Towns states, was unlawful without any prior involvement or authorization of the Ohio Ethics Commission.
“No other sheriff has been criminally prosecuted under R.C. 102.03(B) without a complaint having first been submitted to and a referral for prosecution having been made by the Ohio Ethics Commission,” Towns states.
His complaint further states that by not going through the Ohio Ethics Commission with its complaint, prosecutors violated his rights to due process under the Ohio Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and his conviction is void as a matter of law.
Among his four remaining claims to the Ohio Supreme Court are:
The conviction is void under the Separation of Powers Doctrine. The Bryan Municipal Court unlawfully usurped jurisdiction and authority of the Ohio Ethics Commission;
The section of the Ohio Revised Code cited to keep him off the ballot as a candidate for sheriff is unconstitutional “because the Ohio Constitution does not authorize the General Assembly to impose that sanction;”
That section of the Ohio Revised Codes is also unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Ohio Constitution, “because there is no rational basis to disqualify sheriffs but not other types of public officials who are convicted of first-degree misdemeanors;
He was entitled to “a reasonable period of time to remove the disqualification because he immediately appealed his conviction.”
Towns notes in his filing that his appeal on the conviction is not expected to be ruled upon before the March 17 primary election. But, it is reasonable to expect a decision before the Nov. 3 general election.
He states to the court that he should be allowed to maintain his candidacy while he pursues a reversal of his conviction.
In closing his compliant, Towns asks the Ohio Supreme Court to issue an order, judgment, and/or writ compelling the Williams County Board of Elections to issue a certificate of candidacy to him, and to certify his name for placement upon the upcoming March 17 primary election as a Republican candidate for the office of sheriff.