Belmont sheriff’s case still ongoing
COLUMBUS The quo warranto action taken against Belmont County Sheriff Dave Lucas is still an ongoing case in the Ohio Supreme Court.
Back on Feb. 8, attorney Mark E. Landers filed the action on behalf of Dick Flanagan, seeking the “immediate removal of the respondent (Lucas) from the office of Belmont County Sheriff and a declaration that the Relator (Flanagan) is entitled to the immediate possession of that office.”
During the November general election, Lucas (Rep.) defeated Flanagan (Dem.) 16,859-14,209 to obtain the office.
The vote totals aren’t in question. What is asserted in the quo warranto action and what also was asserted in election protests from Flanagan, Gary Landers and, prior to the primary election, former Belmont County Sheriff Fred Thompson is that Lucas didn’t meet the requirements established in Ohio Revised Code 311.01 to run for the position.
Lucas officially retired from the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office with the rank of major on Oct. 31, 2007. He was subsequently rehired that day as a reserve officer under special officer status. This followed 26 years with the BCSO after working as a part-time police officer with the Barnesville Police Department.
In Lucas’ response to the original complaint and reiterated in his response to the amended complaint, Lucas included documents containing his signature on firearms training certification paperwork from various points between his retirement in 2007 and 2011.
Landers wrote in his response to the motion seeking judgment, that these certification documents don’t reflect hours work, employment status or state whether Lucas was present or not during the time of the certification.
Landers forwarded a copy of an email to The Times Leader that was a correspondence between himself and former Belmont County Sheriff Fred Thompson
The email pertains to Lucas’ assertion that he was in charge of firearms re-qualifications after his official retirement from full-time duty as a sheriff’s deputy with the rank of Major.
The email from Thompson to Landers reads that “He (Atty. Chris Gagi) stated and showed copies of firearms re-qualification forms and said that Lucas was in charge of the re-qualifications for the office. That is not true. Sgt. Tom DeVaul was the firearms instructor in charge of the re-qualifications. Lucas was not in charge and had retired by the time of the re-qualifications. Lucas was paid one time as an independent contractor, not as a member of the sheriff’s office. That was done at the recommendation of the state auditor’s office.”
Landers also states that the Doctrine of Laches does not apply in this case because Flanagan wasn’t made aware of the questions regarding Lucas’ qualifications until after an open records request was made in Dec. 2012. It was then when Flanagan, along with Belmont County resident Gary Landers, the brother of Mark Landers and cousin of Flanagan, attempted to file a complaint with the Belmont County Board of Elections in relation to Lucas’ qualifications.
Mark Landers explained that Flanagan denies an earlier conversation between Flanagan and Lucas about Thompson’s protest took place and that he didn’t delay in filing an official complaint upon.
Back in March, a motion to strike filed on behalf of Lucas was denied by the Ohio Supreme Court, one that sought to remove Lucas’ original qualification packet that he submitted.
This was done because Gagin stated that Flanagan submitted further evidence after his initial filing.
The motion was denied and Flanagan was granted leave to file an amended complaint, containing to affidavits from Flanagan and documentation in relation to Lucas’ qualifications.
One of three things will likely happen next.
The court may rule in favor of Flanagan, that Lucas does not have the qualifications to occupy the office and he will be removed. The court may deny Flanagan’s motion, saying that Lucas does legally occupy the office of sheriff and the matter is resolved.
A third option is the court could rule there are factual disputes between the two sides and now discovery must be entertained.
That would further prolong the ordeal which is already six months in the making.
“The only person that could have prevented all of this from happening is Dave Lucas,” Landers said. “He was inherently on notice of people questioning his qualifications and could have went to the board (of elections) and been vetted out.
“Any prejudice anyone has suffered, including the people of Belmont County, is a direct result of his non-action.”
All the documents filed in this case are available online by visiting www.supremecourt.ohio.gov and searching the online docket under the case information section.
Hughes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org