By Loren Genson
This was not the way Medina County Clerk of Courts David Wadsworth wanted to begin his re-election campaign.
On Wednesday, Wadsworth’s opponent Maryann Chandler criticized a letter sent last year to all clerk of courts employees warning that they could lose their jobs if Wadsworth loses his in November.
Asked to respond, Wadsworth apologized and called the issue a distraction.
“The moment I heard about it, I went to every employee and apologized,” Wadsworth said.
The letter, dated June 17, 2011, and signed by Wadsworth campaign volunteer Joseph Salzgeber, was sent to the clerk of courts employees at their home addresses.
“If another Clerk from a different political party should be elected in 2012, he or she might ‘clean house’ like each of the Medina County Prosecutors did following the 1980, 1984 and 1988 elections,” the letter read.
The letter also urged the employees to help out with parades and other campaign activities.
Though the letter doesn’t appear to break any election laws, Wadsworth said he still felt the need to apologize on behalf of Salzgeber.
“This wasn’t his intent, he feels terrible about it,” Wadsworth said. “He stepped over the line in my book, and it was embarrassing to my employees.”
Wadsworth, who was appointed to his office in January 2011 by the Medina Republican Party, said he was disappointed his campaign wrote the letter and found out about it only after returning from a vacation.
He said he employs Republicans and Democrats in the office and treats all staff fairly.
Wadsworth said the fact that Chandler is crying foul now is a distraction from the real issues.
“If you don’t have experience to do this job, you have to tear down your opponent in some way,” he said.
Chandler said she is raising the letter as an issue now because of persistent rumors that she intended to gut the staff, if elected.
“Although the letter was from last year, the rumors have been allowed to persist to this day, specifically about me,” she said.
Chandler said the employees don’t have to worry about their jobs.
“I have no intention to replace any employees in that office other than the clerk himself,” she said.
Chandler, a local attorney, said she and her legal staff are regularly in the clerk of courts office on official business, and she doesn’t want her relationship with the employees there to be damaged.
“I want people focusing on who has the right experience to manage this office in a professional manner,” she said. “It doesn’t help to have clerks who are scared or afraid when I go in to conduct my business.”
Chandler said she felt Wadsworth’s comments about the apology to his staff were insincere. She said he should be held responsible for anything his campaign sends out.
“Nothing should go out from your campaign without looking at it first,” she said.
Wadsworth said he’s taken steps to ensure nothing similar ever happens again.
“That was a campaign mistake early on and I’ve corrected it,” he said. “I did what I could to make amends with my employees. There’s only so much you can do when something is done like this.”
Wadsworth said Salzgeber remains on his campaign staff. While he disagreed with sending the letter, he said it contained no false statements.
Wadsworth said a new clerk could legally replace the entire staff because their jobs are not protected by civil service.
“When offices change hands like that it’s a fact,” he said. “But it didn’t need to be said.”
Contact Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.