By Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester City Councilman Chuck Milliken defended his council seat on council’s May 4 meeting, following Hatch Act violation accusations by resident Randy Stemen.
Stemen filed the complaint with federal special counsel in November of last year—after an election in which Stemen lost a council seat bid—regarding Milliken’s job with the postal service and an alleged party endorsement.
The Hatch Act permits federal employees (Milliken is a U.S. Postal Service worker) to actively participate in partisan political management and political campaigns, but it prohibits employees from being candidates for public office in partisan elections.
The act does not prohibit federal employees from being candidates in non-partisan elections and, while the council election is designated non-partisan, the special council office said Milliken sought and received the endorsement of the Franklin County Republican Party for his council campaign.
OSC Deputy Chief Erica Hamrick determined that the party created and distributed campaign mailings that included Milliken’s name and picture as an endorsed city council candidate. Based on that information, the OSC determined Milliken’s candidacy was in violation of the Hatch Act.
“We have no evidence that Mr. Milliken’s violation was willful,” said Hamrick. “Therefore, we are closing our file without further action at this time.”
However, on April 30, Mayor Mike Ebert and Council President Mike Walker received a letter from Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party Executive Committee, who said the party did not receive a request from Milliken, Bob Clark, and Walker to be included in the party’s 2019 fall slate card.
“I had a conversation with Bob Clark, who specifically asked that they not be included in any of our materials,” wrote Preisse. “Despite his request, their names were inadvertently placed on the party slate card in the flurry of campaign procedures, the responsibility for which I accept myself.”
In a letter to council, Ebert said, while there are people who feel Milliken should be removed from office, he reminded everyone this was not the first time this situation has occurred.
“In the 2015 mayor’s race, my only opponent appeared on the Republican slate card and no one ever brought it up then, not even me. Why now?” questioned Ebert. “This whole incident is nothing more than an employee-employer issue and is in no way an incident of council concern or discussion. The Post Office and the U.S. Special Counsel neither viewed Mr. Milliken’s actions as means for removal from his job and they did not notify the city of any wrongdoing.”
Ebert said it is time to move on and conduct city business as usual and stay out of the findings and action of the Special Counsel of the U.S. Government and the U.S. Post Office.
I actually have 2 comments regarding this article. The Republican Party comment concerning the candidate names on the slate card really doesn’t matter. The violation occurred when the three councilmen applied for endorsement then advertised the endorsement in their own paid mailings. My second comment is in regards to the mayors comments. In the race the mayor referred to, the opposing candidate dropped out prior to the election. Bringing endorsement in an election where both candidates belong to the same party, plus being a 2-party race, plus having the opposing candidate drop out is completely different circumstances. The comment about this matter being between the employee and employer is just wrong. The Hatch Act is federal law, not just Postal Service employee rules.