Retired Summit County Sheriff Drew Alexander used campaign cash last year to install a security system at his house — an expense that got former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann in trouble with state authorities several years ago.
But Alexander and his former legal counsel said Thursday that the two cases aren’t similar and that Dann ran afoul because of the cost and amount of work, and not the security system itself.
Securi-Com of Canton was paid $2,628 to install the system last November when Alexander was still in office, according to a campaign finance report filed with the county Board of Elections.
The former sheriff said his life had been threatened.
“If your life has been threatened, an officeholder is allowed to put a security system in and I have documents and letters from certain people who want to kill me,” said Alexander, a Republican who served as sheriff for three terms. “Well, one didn’t want to kill me. He just wanted to shoot me in the back and see me crippled.”
Dann, a Democrat, offered a similar reason for spending about $40,000 in campaign funds on a closed-circuit, video-monitored security system and new windows, doors and other improvements at his home after he took office in 2007.
But the Ohio Elections Commission ruled that Dann violated elections law, and fined him and his campaign $1,000 each. His former campaign treasurer was fined $250.
Dann, who resigned in 2008 amid an ethics scandal, appealed the decision in court but lost.
Commission Executive Director Philip Richter said he couldn’t say whether the expense by Alexander is permitted or not, and noted that the circumstances might differ from those involving Dann.
There were questions about whether some of the improvements, including the windows, at Dann’s house were needed for security, he said.
“It’s not always easy to say yes this is or this is not,” he said. “If the matter was brought to the commission, we’d have to look at the facts and make a decision.”
In Dann’s case, the Ohio secretary of state filed a complaint with the commission.
Randy Briggs, now legal counsel for current Sheriff Steve Barry, said he researched the issue and the Dann case before concluding the expense was allowed. He also said he sought the commission’s opinion and the group didn’t say no.
The problem with Dann was the expense and extent of the work, he said.
Entering his last year in office, Alexander had more than $22,830 in campaign funds. Because he was retiring, he had to spend the money.
In addition to the security system expense, he donated some to charity, gave some to other political candidates and bought gifts for sheriff’s employees.
His year-end 2012 campaign finance report lists a balance of $1.53.
The biggest beneficiary was Green Mayor Dick Norton, who received $3,500. County Common Pleas Judge Amy Corrigall Jones received $3,450.
Some other major expenses included $1,000 for Gov. John Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor; $850 for Christmas cards; $500 for the Greater Akron Baseball Hall of Fame; $500 for GASP; and $875 for the Stephen A. Comunale Jr. Family Cancer Foundation.
Alexander said it wasn’t difficult to figure out what to do with the money.
“When people heard that I had to [spend it], there were a lot of suggestions,” he said.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.