July 23, 2016

Mostly sunny

Former foe defends Clerk of Courts David Wadsworth

MEDINA — The man who brought an ethics complaint against Medina County Clerk of Courts David Wadsworth when he served as a Brunswick Council member now is defending him against allegations made by Maryann Chandler, who seeks to unseat Wadsworth in the November election.

Alan Bartholomew, who filed a complaint with the Brunswick Ethics Commission against Wadsworth in December 2002, said false information about the complaint is included in Chandler’s campaign literature.

Maryann Chandler

David Wadsworth

In a letter to The Gazette, Bartholomew said Chandler’s campaign material states that Wadsworth is “guilty of ethics violations for misuse of public office.”

That isn’t the case, he said.

“I should know; I filed the complaint,” Bartholomew said.

In 2003, a Brunswick Ethics Commission found Wadsworth “used improper influence” over local business owners about signs regarding a city ballot issue to change the city charter, according to a February 2003 story in the Plain Dealer.

Before an Ethics Commission hearing in 2003, business owners testified they felt threatened during the fall of 2002 when Wadsworth approached them about signs they had up supporting changing the city to a strong-mayor form of government.

Wadsworth, who opposed the change, acknowledged approaching the businesses, but said he never asked them to remove the signs.

“It was a very contentious issue in Brunswick,” Wadsworth said Thursday.

“In the end, they kept the city manager form of government, which I supported. Then, some of the folks from the other side came after me with this.”

Chandler, a Democrat, said the mailer was meant to highlight the ethics issue. Though the ethics panel never used the word guilty, she said its finding that he used “improper influence” should matter to voters.

“If my campaign message was aggressive, I apologize for that,” Chandler said. “My opponent’s behavior was a breach of conduct, and I felt the voters should know about it.”

She said Wadsworth’s ethics finding is important, especially when added to the fact that Wadsworth last month said he apologized for a letter he sent last year to clerk of court employees that encouraged them to become involved in his campaign.

The two incidents, Chandler said, demonstrate Wadsworth’s partisanship.

“We need someone with ethics who stands by the law,” Chandler said. “They need to do so without regard to political affiliation, and we have someone with a history of making things about politics.”

But Wadsworth, a Republican, said it was the ethics panel in Brunswick that exhibited partisanship, not his conduct.

“In Brunswick, when someone wants to rake someone over the coals on something, they bring them before this board,” Wadsworth said.

The three-member board serves as an advisory panel to oversee ethics complaints regarding city employees and elected officials.

The board met privately to consider the complaint against Wadsworth, and after the meeting, it released a short statement to City Council. Council took no action against Wadsworth, and he later was elected unanimously by fellow Council members to serve as vice mayor.

“In the end, it was a partisan board, and they didn’t find any facts that I violated the charter,” Wadsworth said.

He said he was a little surprised it was Bartholomew who raised concerns with Chandler’s material.

“Alan and I have had our baggage over the years,” Wadsworth said. “But he’s obviously not willing to put up with her lying about it.”

In an interview Thursday, Bartholomew made it clear that he and Wadsworth are not friends. He also said he is not a member of the Medina County Republican Party and has no “dog in this fight.” But he said the campaign materials upset him because they didn’t reflect what happened.

“This isn’t an endorsement of Dave, but to suggest he did something illegal is wrong,” Bartholomew said.

Contact Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.

Loren Genson About Loren Genson

Loren Genson was The Gazette's senior reporter. From August 2012 through September 2015, she covered Brunswick city and state and national government. To contact The Gazette, call the managing editor at (330) 721-4065.