July 30, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
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Issues of bad checks, OVI raised in race for 69th House seat

MEDINA — A candidate for Ohio’s 69th District House seat says his run-ins with the law a decade ago shouldn’t have any impact on his campaign.

In Tuesday’s primary, Medina County voters will decide whether Medina contractor Chris Sawicki or county Commissioner Stephen D. Hambley gets the Republican nomination for the seat being vacated by Ohio House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina.

Earlier this week, several online commentators on The Gazette’s story profiling the two candidates noted that Sawicki, 34, was convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated in 2003 and passing two bad checks in 2006.

“I don’t have a good excuse. There is no good excuse,” he said of the OVI conviction. “It was 11 years ago, I was 23, and I did something dumb and irresponsible. But it’s in my past.”

A police report shows that Sawicki was stopped by Montville police at about 1:30 a.m. Sept. 26, 2003, after he squealed his tires pulling out of a local bar where he worked at the time.

According to the report, he smelled of alcohol and was taken to the station where he registered 0.144 blood-alcohol content. Ohio’s legal limit for intoxication is 0.08.

He pleaded guilty to OVI and reckless operation in Medina Municipal Court and paid a $600 fine and $487 in fees and court costs. He also was placed on probation, which ended in January 2005.

Sawicki said he wrote the bad checks in connection with his construction and remodeling business and was unaware he didn’t have enough money in his account.

Sawicki said a customer paid him for a job with a $17,000 check. Based on that payment, he wrote checks to pay his suppliers.

About a week later, Sawicki said he learned from the bank that the customer’s check had bounced, which meant his checks also were no good.

Medina Municipal Court documents show two charges for passing bad checks were filed against Sawicki on April 12 and 14, 2006.

He pleaded no contest to the charges, which were first-degree misdemeanors. He was found guilty and fined $150 for each charge.

Sawicki said he also paid back the money owed his supplies.

“I had to work extra hours and do without some things personally so I could make sure I paid those back out of my own pocket,” he said. “One customer got a bunch of work done for free to cover it.

“People who don’t run a business, they don’t understand. I had a 1-year-old daughter and one on the way, and it’s not easy to come up with money to make good on all those checks. But sometimes that happens in business.”

Sawicki said recent comments about his past misdemeanor convictions made on a Gazette story about the race are only Hambley’s supporters playing last-minute politics.

“This is what’s wrong with politics and why I’m running for office,” he said. “A guy like me who’s been a hard-working businessman all my life gets thrown under the bus by people who don’t even have the courage to post their own names on their comments.”

Sawicki said his criticism of Hambley for his support of the county’s fiber-optic network, which is requiring additional taxpayer money to meet its debt obligations, has made an impression on voters.

“Polling is showing it’s a really close race and so now, apparently, it’s time to get dirty,” Sawicki said.

Hambley said he stands behind the decision to support the 151-mile, 144-strand fiber-optic loop that runs through the county to connect businesses and local governments with high-speed Internet service.

“They can attack me for that,” Hambley said. “But it’s still been supported by all the communities and the business community. It’s just had some difficulties getting up and running.”

Hambley said he has run an exceptionally clean campaign.

“I’m staying focused on the positive,” he said. “You expect people supporting me are going to take it personally, but I don’t get involved with any of it.”

“I’m focusing on what I’ve done and what I think can be done at the state level.”

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.