Filing against Rinehart incorrect

Madison Township resident Thomas Rinehart lost in his election bid to become a Madison Township trustee last November, but he has since won two filings made against him with the Franklin County Board of Elections.

Rinehart won a challenge last fall regarding a complaint made to the board of elections, by the treasurer of one of his opponents in the race for trustee, about his campaign signs.

Then, on July 14, Rinehart received a letter from Ohio Elections Commission Staff Attorney Philip Richter stating he was referred to the commission for one or more alleged violations of campaign finance law.

Dennis White, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, who is also a Madison Township trustee, said he signed off on the complaint to the commission, which stated Rinehart did not file a mandatory post general election campaign finance report, although Rinehart did file a pre-general report stating he was terminating his funding at the time of the filing.

White said he was unaware Rinehart was on the list of Elections Commission referrals, which requires the director’s signature.

"By statute, the board has to audit the finance reports and as the director, I had to sign the form," commented White. "There were at least 30 names, and I didn’t even look at the names on the form."

But, according to Franklin County Election Operations Manager Karen Cotton, Rinehart’s referral was a procedural error by the commission and is in the process of being corrected.  

"He (Rinehart) terminated his campaign fund when he filed his pre-general, so he was not required to file a post-general report," commented Cotton. "It (the commission referral) was a paperwork oversight. He filed and terminated prior to the election."

In a letter to the board of elections, Rinehart said a clerk at the time of his initial filing pointed out, according to the campaign finance report, no other forms were required for a post-primary/general period if total campaign contributions and expenditures were each $500 or less. Rinehart closed out his election committee with $419 in contributions and a like amount in expenditures, leaving a zero balance.

"I was told by the Franklin County Board of Elections clerk, at the time of my filing of the pre-general filing, that I fell into this category," Rinehart wrote in his letter to the board. "I was asked if I was going to seek more contributions and plan to have any further expenditures. I stated no…I was instructed by the clerk to mark the termination box terminating my committee and to mark the Revised Code 3517.10 box…Before leaving the board of elections, I repeatedly asked the clerk if I still had to file a post-general report after the election. Three times I was told no more forms were needed post-general finance or anything else, that my committee is officially terminated and no longer exists."

Under protest, Rinehart filed a post-general campaign finance report on July 21, along with his official statement. He said the filing does not, in any way, represent an admittance of guilt or violation on his part and was not an admission of any wrong doing on his behalf.

Cotton said the Franklin County Board of Elections withdrew the original complaint against Rinehart and, to her understanding, once the Ohio Elections Commission receives the county’s paperwork, the commission will cancel its preliminary hearing on the Rinehart issue that was set for Sept. 4.

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