ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Belmont County Sheriff Dave Lucas and his attorneys, Christopher J. Gagin and Tracy Lancione Lloyd of Lancione, Lloyd and Hoffman, filed a formal response to a quo warranto action filed against Lucas by Mark E. Landers on behalf of relator Dick Flanagan.
In the action filed in Ohio Supreme Court by Landers, Flanagan alleges that Lucas was not a qualified candidate for sheriff because:
He did not serve as a full-time officer anytime after his retirement from the Belmont County Sheriff's Office on Oct. 31, 2007.
He did not serve in a supervisor capacity during this time period.
Lucas owned a home in Florida, did not list it on his application to be approved as a candidate for sheriff and possibly changed his residency to Florida.
There were other issues raised, but those were the major three.
Lucas, through his attorneys, issued a response back to the Ohio State Supreme Court earlier this week.
"I have no desire to try this matter in the press," Lucas said in an issued statement accompanying his official response. "But for Dick Flanagan to allege that I was not a resident of the State of Ohio, and that I didn't pay Ohio income tax from 2007-2011, is ridiculous, and I am voluntarily producing my Ohio tax returns for those years to prove it.
"I also look forward to setting the record straight about the work I did as a firearms instructor and supervisor for the Sheriff's Department during those years. Those are the facts I will present to the Supreme Court, and I am confident I will prevail."
Lucas had previously stayed out of the discussion once initial news of Flanagan's protest, first with the Belmont County Board of Elections and later through the Ohio Supreme Court, came to light. He chose, rather, to focus on his job as Belmont County Sheriff, which begin in early January.
However, with further allegations being alleged, he felt the need to respond publicly.
"While we take this lawsuit seriously, we are stunned at Dick Flanagan's recklessness with the truth," Gagin said. "Sheriff Lucas' tax returns conclusively prove Flanagan's residency allegations are completely false.
"... Likewise, the Department's firearm certification forms establish that the Sheriff did indeed work full days as a supervisor and instructor during 2007-2011. Thus, the primary allegations of Dick Flanagan's allegations are false."
Lucas worked part-time as an officer with the Barnesville Police Department before getting hired full-time with the sheriff's office in 1981. He worked through for 26 years, eventually climbing to the rank of major before retiring.
Upon his retirement, he was immediately hired as a reserve officer with the department.
In Lucas' response, he included copies of firearms training certification paperwork that he signed off on during the period in question between 2007 and 2011.
Should the quo warranto action proceed, the determining factor will be if his work in that capacity qualifies as full-time status.
Landers has until March 8 to file a response with the court.
"There was a fair, hard-fought election last November that Dick Flanagan lost. It's now time for Mr. Flanagan to get over his loss," Gagin said. "We believe Mr. Flanagan should respect the will of the people, dismiss the law suit and allow Sheriff Lucas to do the job he was elected to do for the people of Belmont County - not because I say so, but because the people of Belmont County voted it so."
The response also alleges that Flanagan is also not a qualified candidate. The response reads that:
"At all times relevant, Relator was a classified employee with the Village of Bellaire, Ohio, serving as a Lieutenant with the Bellaire Police Department. As such, existing Federal and State election laws prohibited him from being a candidate for partisan political office."
Ohio Revised Code 124.57 states that:
"(A) No officer or employee in the classified service of the state, the several counties, cities, and city school districts of the state, or the civil service townships of the state shall directly or indirectly, orally or by letter, solicit or receive, or be in any manner concerned in soliciting or receiving, any assessment, subscription, or contribution for any political party or for any candidate for public office; nor shall any person solicit directly or indirectly, orally or by letter, or be in any manner concerned in soliciting, any such assessment, contribution, or payment from any officer or employee in the classified service of the state, the several counties, cities, or city school districts of the state, or the civil service townships of the state; nor shall any officer or employee in the classified service of the state, the several counties, cities, and city school districts of the state, or the civil service townships of the state be an officer in any political organization or take part in politics other than to vote as the officer or employee pleases and to express freely political opinions."