The Summit County elections board Friday disqualified a candidate from running for Lakemore council based on a felony conviction.
But, federal court records show that Tracy Douglas was charged with federal felonies, including theft of public funds, but pleaded to a misdemeanor count of theft of public funds. The other charges against him were dismissed.
Douglas, a Democratic precinct committee member, is furious and wants the board to meet as soon as possible to approve his candidacy.
“It bothers me that they are trying to throw me off the ballot and they don’t even have the facts,” Douglas, 61, said Friday afternoon in a phone interview.
The elections board certified 10 candidates who filed earlier this month to run in the May 7 primary for local office in Lakemore, Barberton and Stow.
The board then had a lengthy discussion about whether Douglas should be allowed on the ballot, based on a call the board had received from Becky Doherty, the Lakemore law director, who said Douglas had been convicted of a felony.
Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Marvin Evans made some phone calls and then had court documents delivered to the board. Based on conversations he’d had and the documents, he told the board Douglas had been convicted of theft of public documents for cashing his deceased mother’s Social Security checks. He said Douglas had been ordered to pay restitution of about $35,000.
The board was unclear about whether Douglas should be permitted to run for office and could hold office with a felony conviction. This became moot, though, when a board employee realized Douglas had circulated his own petitions to run for council. Under Ohio law, convicted felons are prohibited from circulating any petitions — either belonging to them or someone else.
The board decided Douglas shouldn’t be given ballot access, based on how he circulated his own petitions.
Tim Gorbach, the board’s Democratic chairman, said Friday afternoon that the board will be revisiting the issue. He wasn’t pleased that the board was given incorrect information about Douglas’ case.
“I think it’s pretty cut and dry,” he said. “A misdemeanor doesn’t disqualify him from the ballot or from circulating ... We’ll get straightened out and vote accordingly.”
The board’s deadline for certifying candidates for the May primary is 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Five candidates filed to run for four Lakemore council positions. This included incumbent council members Laura Lewis Cochran, a Democrat, and Tom Wolfe, a Republican, and Douglas, Richard Cole and Josh Timko, who are Democrats.
Douglas was charged in 2005 with several federal offenses, including theft of public funds, for signing and cashing Social Security and U.S. Treasury checks made out to his mother, who died in 1999. He pleaded guilty in 2008 to one misdemeanor count of theft of public funds and the other charges against him were dismissed. He was put on probation for two years and ordered to pay restitution of $34,759, according to federal court documents.
A court entry from 2010 showed Douglas hadn’t paid his restitution and said the remaining balance should be pursued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Financial Litigation Unit.
Douglas said he thought the federal checks being sent to his mother were meant for him as the trustee of her estate and her sole survivor. He said he tried unsuccessfully to get clarification from the Social Security Administration numerous times before the charges against him were filed. He said he is still working to pay back the money he owes.
Douglas, who is retired and owned a landscaping business, said he wanted to run for council to improve the village’s finances.
“I’m tired of the incompetence in government,” he said. “That’s why I want to run for council. I want to clean up Lakemore. I want to make it more fiscally sound.”
In other business, the elections board didn’t take up the issue of whether Stow Municipal Court Judge Kim Hoover can run as a non-partisan judicial candidate in the upcoming election. The board will address this after the May 6 filing deadline for non-partisan candidates, said Joe Masich, the board’s director.
The board is scheduled to certify non-partisan candidates at its June 24 meeting.