Marina District supporter says opponents spreading lies, files complaint

SANDUSKY A supporter of Sandusky's proposed Marina District project says the project's foes are lying -- and he's filed a com
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

A supporter of Sandusky's proposed Marina District project says the project's foes are lying -- and he's filed a complaint to try to prove it.

The Ohio Elections Commission has agreed to have a hearing next week on the complaint that Sanduskian Alan Washek filed against Citizens for Responsive Government, a group opposing the Marina District project group.

Washek said the group is lying on its campaign literature by claiming the city will "lose" Battery Park and that the city plans to cover Battery Park "with condos and sidewalks."

The city has explained clearly that it actually plans to expand Battery Park, not take it away, and is adding extra protection to the park by granting an easement to Erie MetroParks, Washek said.

"All I want them to do is tell everyone they've been telling falsehoods, mistruths, lies," Washek said. "Even their yard signs say 'Save Battery Park'. That's nothing but a falsification."

The Nov. 6 general election includes a ballot question asking Sandusky citizens whether they want the city to move forward with the Marina District project.

Washek's complaint names two Citizens for Responsive Government officers: Tim Schwanger, the group's leader, and LaDonna Rengel, its treasurer.

Schwanger could not be reached for comment. Rengel declined comment.

A probable cause hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday in Columbus. Washek said he plans to attend.

When the probable cause panel reviews Washek's complaint, it can either find probable cause Washek has a valid complaint or dismiss his complaint, said Philip C. Richter, executive director of the Ohio Elections Commission.

If the panel decides to move the case forward, Richter said he will try to get it before the full commission before the election.

Washek's complaint asks the Ohio Elections Commission to order the Citizens for Responsive Government to quit distributing yard signs and fliers with the "Save Battery Park" slogan, remove all of its yard signs with the slogan and report back that the order has been obeyed.

Actually, Richter said, the Ohio Elections Commission doesn't have the power to issue such orders.

"It decides whether the statements are made either knowing that they are false or with reckless disregard for the truth," Richter said.

The commission can issue a statement declaring a statement is false. It can refer severe cases to the county prosecutor, or it can issue a letter of reprimand, Richter said.

"These are First Amendment rights," Richter said. "Sometimes the mere finding can be enough."

Washek said he strongly supports the Marina District project.

"I think Sandusky needs to move ahead," he said.