THE BELMONT County Sheriff's Office is being hounded by an ongoing controversy.
The sooner that lingering issue is removed, the smoother the office will be able to carry out its respective duties.
Republican Dave Lucas defeated Democratic challenger Dick Flanagan in the November general election. Lucas subsequently took office earlier this month.
Despite the election results and with Lucas already carrying out his duties, the sheriff's position remains in question. That is due Flanagan's cousin and attorney, Mark Landers, planning to take legal action against Lucas.
Landers is planning to file a quo warranto action with the Ohio Supreme Court. Quo warrantos are "issued against a person or corporation for usurpation, misuse, or abuse of public office or corporate office or franchise."
The legal action targets Lucas' qualifications to be sheriff, specifically his employment history. Landers is claiming Lucas did not serve as a full-time peace officer during the four-year period prior to election, as required by the Ohio Revised Code.
Lucas' application for certification as a viable candidate lists his retirement date from the Belmont County Sheriff's Office as a full-time officer as Oct. 31, 2007. After that, Lucas is listed as being employed by BCSO from 2007 until present as a reserve officer.
That information was included in the qualification packet that Judge Jennifer Sargus received and subsequently signed off on, giving her report back to the Belmont County Board of Elections.
Fred Thompson, Lucas' predecessor, filed a similar petition during the primary, bringing up the issue of Lucas' qualifications. Thompson's petition was denied because he is a registered Democrat. A complaint must be filed from someone in the same party.
Lucas has adamantly stood his ground, saying he is qualified to be sheriff.
It all adds up to a large legal law enforcement headache.
The residents of Belmont County deserve better. The sheriff's post is the highest law enforcement position in the county. It should not be shrouded in doubt.
Should Landers continue with his legal quest, we urge and hope the Ohio Supreme Court will act with a sense of urgency to settle the dispute. As it is, the current uncertainty only serves to weaken the position.