The Ohio Elections Commission executive director informed attorney Curt C. Hartman that the commission’s Probable Cause Panel scheduled a hearing Thursday to address two complaints his client, Butler County resident Mary Capella, filed April 7 against GOP gubernatorial candidate Joe Blystone.

“After further consideration, I have determined that the matters at issue in these cases will be expedited for consideration pursuant to Ohio Revised Code §3517.154(A)(2)(b) and placed before a Probable Cause Panel of the Commission,” wrote Philip C. Richter, who also works as the commission’s staff attorney.

“The Probable Cause Panel will determine whether probable cause is present to set the matter for hearing before the Commission at a future date as determined by the Panel, or whether there is no probable cause present and the dismiss the case,” the staff attorney wrote.

Richter’s decision to expedite consideration of the complaints complies with Ohio law, which requires a fast track for complaints filed within 60 days of an election or primary.

Richter executes an about-face after Hartman files a maramaus petition with Ohio Supreme Court 

Hartman told The Ohio Star when Richter initially reviewed the Capella complaints, the executive director shrugged them off and gave Hartman the impression there would be no hearing before the May 3 primary.

This led Hartman to file a marasmus petition April 11 with the Ohio Supreme Court, asking the state’s high court to order the Ohio Elections Commission to address the complaints, he said.

Hartman said Capella’s complaints dealt with the Blystone’s campaign contributions and expenditures.

“The whole essence of the campaign finance laws is open and timely disclosure of the information relative to campaign so voters can be informed about candidates, and Ms. Capella became aware through the campaign filings of the Blystone campaign in January of certain irregularities, both in terms of contributions and expenditures,” he said.

“We filed two complaints with the Ohio Elections Commission dealing with those issues – the contributions, and the expenditures, what appears to be the potential conversion of campaign funds for personal use, irregularities in fundraising, not reporting contributions, very similar to a complaint that was filed a few months ago against the Blystone campaign on a different finance report,” he said.

Read more about the complaints here.

“Under a campaign finance law, the expenditures by any campaign committee have to be for legitimate, necessary, and ordinary campaign expenses,” Hartman said. “You can’t go buy a boat and say: ‘Hey, I’m going to host stuff on a boat and then turn around and use a boat for your personal.’”

If a campaign buys a vehicle, it must be for the exclusive use by the campaign, along with the maintenance of logbooks for mileage, maintenance, and other outlays associated with the vehicle, he said.

In the case of Blystone, there are entries for bulk purchases of fuel, which may have been for personal use, he said.

Richter said he assigned the case the reference number: OEC Case Nos. 2022G-012 & 2022G-013.

Hearing open to the public

The hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. at the commission’s Riffe Center offices at 77 South High St. in Room 1932.

Members of the panel are slated to participate on Microsoft Teams using Video Conference ID: 114 619 588 7, and individuals can request to join with this email: [email protected].

Individuals can dial into the audio feed at (614) 721-2972 with the conference code: 750 335 123#

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Neil W. McCabe is the national political editor of The Star News Network based in Washington. He is an Army Reserve public affairs NCO and an Iraq War veteran. Send him news tips: [email protected] Follow him on TruthSocial & GETTR: @ReporterMcCabe
Photo “Joe Blystone” by Blystone for Governor of Ohio. Background Photo “Ohio Capitol” by 12019.