Gov. John Kasich has shown little interest so far in a petition drive asking him to remove two Sandusky County officials.
More than 1,200 people have signed the "Stand Up for Justice and Accountability in Sandusky County Campaign" petition at Change.org, which asks the governor to remove Sandusky County sheriff Kyle Overmyer and county prosecutor Tom Stierwalt from office.
Citing Ohio Revised Code 3.07 and ORC 3.08, the petition asks the governor to file a complaint in Common Pleas Court to have the two removed. The statutes allow the governor to remove public officials for "misconduct in office."
The petition supporters have cited the ongoing controversy over how Overmyer and Stierwalt handled the investigation into the shooting death of Jake Limberios in 2012 and the death of Craig Burdine, who died at the Sandusky County jail on Aug. 11, 2007.
Sheriff's deputies allowed evidence to be detroyed during the Limberios investigation. Sandusky County coroner John Wukie ruled his death a suicide, although that was later found to be incorrect.
The sheriff's office and Fremont police refused to conduct a criminal investigation after Burdine died at the jail. The officers and jail guards involved all provided written statements that Burdine was being combative when they brought him to the jail, but all the video surviellance from police cruisers and the jail appear to show he was barely conscious.
Burdine was handcuffed and shackled when an officer shocked him with a Taser. He died after a jail guard used a chokehold on him, according to Dr. Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist who reviewed the autopsy, the video footage and witness statements.
Christine Wiedle, administrator of the Justice 4 Jake and Ella Facebook page, said the goal is to obtain between 4,500 and 5,000 signatures before formally presenting the petition to Kasich.
"We're not witch hunters. We're justice seekers," Wiedle said.
It was visiting Judge Dale Crawford who suggested there was a witch hunt after it was discovered that a grand jury he oversaw was improperly seated before hearing evidence from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's office into the 2012 death of Jacob Limberios. DeWine was appointed to conduct the investigation in June 2013 after it was determined local officials had conflicts continuing to investigate it.
Crawford made the statements in a highly unusual news conference he called last month after DeWine asked him to affirm that grand jury's findings despite the violations.
Eric Burdine, Craig Burdine's brother, said his family hopes to use the governor's race and the attorney general's race this year to focus attention on the Burdine case and the plights other families have suffered at the hands of local county officials.
Kasich, a Republican, faces a challenge from Democratic nominee Ed FitzGerald. DeWine, whose office will begin presenting evidence on the Burdine case to a Sandusky County grand jury on Tuesday, has been challenged by Democrat David Pepper.
The Justice for Jake & Ella group now includes the Burdines, the family of Isabel Cordle, who was killed in January 1988, and a woman who has said Fremont police refused to pursue criminal charges against a man who raped her. Its Facebook page has more than 19,000 followers.
Through a spokesman, Kasich declined a request for an interview about the petition.
The spokesman, Rob Nichols, said there are normal channels for getting rid of local officials who are not doing their jobs.
“If people are unhappy with any local elected official, then they should hold him or her accountable on Election Day. This is why have elections," Nichols said.
Overmyer was appointed sheriff in 2008 after the sudden death of Sheriff David Gangwer. Overmyer was elected in 2012 but had no opponent in that race.
Stierwalt was first elected in 2000. He was re-elected in 2012, defeating a challenge from Timothy Braun.
If they choose to seek re-election, both would go before the voters in 2016.
Stierwalt and Overmyer did not return telephone calls seeking comment. Stierwalt's staff said he was busy with a trial Thursday and Friday.
Residents who signed the pitition have left numerous comments with their e-signatures.
"I lose my job if I don't do it right," a Fremont man wrote when he signed the petition. "Badges shouldn't void that rule so my reason is common sense."
"Accountability," wrote another, who is from Oak Harbor.