Butler County Sheriff politicking on official government page; raises concerns for running afoul of the law

The Cincinnati Post

Butler County Sheriff uses his official government Facebook page to promote party politicsButler County Sheriff's Office

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones has some explaining to do. Twice in the last year, he has attended rallies in support of the Butler County GOP at Big Buls Bar in Ross Township; events in which he was accompanied by uniformed and mask-less officers driving police vehicles. In 2020, donations for the event started at $500 per table.

Last Summer, Trump supporters poured into the watering hole, hundreds, maybe even a thousand, Trump supporters filled 2 fields serving as parking lots with vehicles. About 7 of those vehicles were police cars from both the Butler County Sheriff's Office and the Ross Township Police Department. Nobody wore a mask preceding the big spike in the Fall of 2020. (Later, Jones would go on a rampage after a bout with COVID that sequestered him to his own little holding cell in his basement for a couple weeks, complaining about his officers not being at the front of line for the COVID vaccines.)

This year, the Trump-stock was way down.

Admission was free, but you could reserve a table for just 25 bucks if you wanted to be up-COVID-close and personal for the speeches from Corey Lewandowski and Sheriff Jones. Lewandowski was Trump's former campaign manager and became the epitome of his, "You're fired!" skits, being the most canned Trump loyalist in the bunch. He ran through jobs at OANN, FOX, and CNN (after showing up drunk) and thrice-accused perp of assault charges from various women during his tenure with the former president. Since his departure from the official rolls in the White House, he bounced from under-cover lobbyist jobs (meaning, he never registered as a lobbyist, legally) to a "tweet insurance policy" for various entities that feared the power of a presidential twitter account for as much as $25k a month. Kind of like the protection money businesses used to pay to the mob to just be left alone.

While the improprieties of Sheriff Jones attending these events to raise money for the himself, via the Butler County GOP, with uniformed staff in tow and transported by police department vehicles didn't raise enough eyebrows, then he posted his political fundraising to his official government Facebook page.

I don't think you're allowed to do that.

Sheriff Jones may very well have run afoul of the law. An elected official is not permitted to use his office or the people's property or time to raise money for, or promote any political party or candidate. Regardless of whether or how much money was raised, his official Facebook post clearly promoted a political party, "Sheriff Jones speaking at Big Buls tonight in Ross Township showing support for Trump and the Republican Party!!"

Criminal law ORC 2913.01 defines Theft by Deception as, to:

(3) Accept, use, or appropriate money, property, or services, with purpose not to give proper
consideration in return for the money, property, or services, and without reasonable
justification or excuse for not giving proper consideration.

(E) "Services" include labor, personal services, professional services, rental services, public
utility services including wireless service ...

What's more, Theft in office using the equipment or property of the public (computers and social media accounts), as well as, the personnel time, may meet the definitions of Theft in Office at ORC 2921.41:

(A) No public official or party official shall commit any theft offense, as defined in division (K) of
section 2913.01 of the Revised Code, when either of the following applies:

(1) The offender uses the offender's office in aid of committing the offense or permits or assents
to its use in aid of committing the offense;

(2) The property or service involved is owned by this state, any other state, the United States, a
county, a municipal corporation, a township, or any political subdivision, department, or
agency of any of them, is owned by a political party, or is part of a political campaign fund.

(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of theft in office. Except as otherwise provided in this
division, theft in office is a felony of the fifth degree....

Conviction can result in forfeiture of office and prohibition of holding any position of trust in the future. What's more is, a person convicted can loose their retirement benefits.

The Ohio Ethics Commission investigates complaints of elected officials in the state.

Tread softly Sheriff Jones. You're skating on thin ice.

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