April 19, 2014

Mostly sunny

County Treasurer John Burke sends Dems a desist letter

MEDINA — Medina County Treasurer John Burke’s attorney has sent a “cease and desist” letter to the state and county Democratic Party leaders demanding they stop using “untruths” about him in campaign advertisements or face legal action.

The Democrats are pushing back, saying the claims in the advertisements are backed by facts.

John Burke

Burke, a Republican, is running for re-election Nov. 6. He is opposed by Democrat Joan Heller, the county’s chief deputy auditor.

In the letter, attorney Theodore Lesiak charges that the Democrats’ “Bye Bye Burke” campaign is “propagating several untruths regarding Mr. Burke through various campaign materials, including but not limited to robo calls, press releases, letters to the editor, mailers and YouTube videos.”

Lesiak cited statements in the campaign ads concerning three issues:

• Burke’s conviction in 1997 on misdemeanor charges involving state tax forms filed for a car wash and beverage store he owned in Medina.

• 1998 bankruptcy filing for that business.

• That he has poorly managed the finances of the treasurer’s office.

Lesiak flatly denied claims in the campaign ads stating that Burke pleaded guilty to a lesser charge to avoid going to jail.

Lesiak said the misdemeanor charges were “separate from the indicted charge,” which were felonies carrying possible jail time.

Burke was indicted in July 1997 by a Medina County grand jury on six counts of filing false tax returns — felonies carrying maximum penalties of 18 years in prison.

Those charges were dropped after he agreed to plead guilty to six minor misdemeanor counts of “failure of any agent to report and testify” to information on the forms.

Burke was fined $1,500 and ordered to pay $12,924 in back taxes owed on his business.

His attorney in that case said Burke didn’t knowingly do anything wrong — he simply signed the tax returns prepared by his accountants.

If Burke had been convicted of the original felony charges, he would have been forced to give up the treasurer’s post, which he had held since 1994, when he was appointed to replace retiring Betty Rom.

John Welker, head of the county Democrats, said Lesiak was misrepresenting what happened in court. He cited news stories about the case from The Gazette and other area newspapers that reported that the felony charges were dropped as part of a plea bargain.

“We found our proof right there,” Welker said. “Right there in the news articles.”

In a news release, Welker also included news articles reporting that Burke had more than $636,000 in debts when he filed for bankruptcy in 1998.

Welker said county records back the campaign criticisms of Burke’s financial management in office.

The Democrats’ news release included a listing of expenditures in the treasurer’s office showing an increase in spending between 2006 and 2011 of about 10.4 percent.

Welker also pointed to travel expenses for Burke totaling $77,820 since 1992 regarding transparency.

“I know he has continuing education credits, but he takes a trip to Hawaii,” Welker said. “Can’t you find a (class) closer?”

Contacted by phone Tuesday, Burke declined to comment on Welker’s response or his news release.

“I’m not going to jeopardize any cause of (legal) action by commenting,” he said, referring all questions to Lesiak.

Lesiak could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

In his letter, Lesiak doesn’t dispute the amount in travel expenses, but said the Democrats misled voters, arguing the travel is typical for any county treasurer.

“You cite Mr. Burke’s travel expenses but fail to mention that these were legitimate expenses that any treasurer would have to undertake to maintain certifications of the office,” Lesiak wrote in his letter.

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

  • Tom Kelling

    So, essentially his attorney has confirmed all of the charges?

  • Robert Robinson

    They have always said, “If you can’t stand the heat in the kitchen you had better get out.” It sounds to me like Burke is making a last ditch effort to lay a smoke screen and muddy the waters to cover up his personal & business failures. In my view he does not possess the characteristics of someone I would want or trust in public office. In my 31 years of public service I can say that I strongly support Joan Heller for the position of Medina County Treasurer.nRobert Robinsonn369 Arbor Ct.nMedina, Ohio

  • Charlie Dague

    Hawaii? For training? Really? And you took an employee along with you at government expense? I think his picture comes up under the definition of “dirt bag”.nhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySxY8MP2NvU

  • buzzards27

    Burke, it isn’t your money, it is the citizens’ money. Shame on you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vi.calvaresewalters Vi Calvarese Walters

    Read The Headlines- The attorney is saying clearly that these things are not true , and they are liable. As a matter of fact Ms Heller has taken more than one trip on a “Medical Mission” (whatever that means) to the CARIBBEANnn I would like to know how many of these trips she has been on, and who paid for those trips. Was she also paid her salary while she was away, who went with her (did we the taxpayers pay for this) , and what does the CARIBBEAN have to do with serving Medina County. nnIt isn’t Mr. Burkes fault if people don’t pay their taxes.. Yet he has a 98% tax record collection rate.nnHe has had earned over 51 MILLION dollars for our County Money Invested.nnHe has been the treasurer for 18 years.nnHe is Certified by THE STATE OF OHIOnnHe has served as Treasurer 28 times for various public and private organizations/nnMs Heller—– has NO TREASURER EXPERIENCEnnSHE HAS NEVER BEEN A POLITICIANnnAlso being a grandmother and cancer survivor doesn’t qualify her for any public office.nnMany of us have the same qualifications –yet that doesn’t mean we should run for office.nnAND IT WOULD BE A CONFLICT OF INTEREST IF SHE WERE ALLOWED TO HAVE ACCESSnnTO BOTH OFFICES. (who would stop her from being in both offices)nnWHO WOULD BE THE UNBIASED PERSON TO DO CHECKS AND BALANCES.nnThe Auditor claims that she has done his job without him.nnSo why doesnt she just run for his job????? nnPlease join me in voting for Mr John Burke–he is honest , trustworthy, dependable and he has nnthe Experience of 18 years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vi.calvaresewalters Vi Calvarese Walters

    I want to send an apology to Ms Heller. She has just informed me that what was printed in the newspaper was untrue about her going to the Caribbean. I didn’t doubt it , because it was an endorsement from someone that said that she knew Ms Heller. I am so sorry that people don’t check their facts before they agree to nnlet them be printed. It makes me hesitant to believe everything that I see in print. Sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.