A citizen has filed a complaint against the city, claiming officials illegally are spending tax money to campaign for the passage of a 1.5 percent earned income tax on the May 7 ballot.
The complaint sent by John Mitchel, a member of Taxbusters PAC, and received by the Ohio Elections Commission on Thursday says that the city has spent money to produce publications in favor of the levy and paid for by taxpayers.
“Complainant alleges that the only legal expenditure funded by public money is that used to print ballots and manage the election,” Mitchelwrote.
Mitchel alleges the city paid “city employees for scores of hours while they were electioneering” for the income tax.
“Once we see the complaint, certainly the city will be able to respond to the commission by providing information needed by the commission,” Steve McHugh, city attorney, said. “At this point, the city can’t address anything further because the city has not been served. Once we see the complaint, we can look into it.”
Chris Hughes, commission spokesman, said the staff attorney would review the complaint Friday or Monday to ensure the complaint fell under the commission’s authority. If so, parties will be notified and a hearing date would be set at least 30 days out. At the hearing, the seven commissioners — three Republicans, three Democrats and one Independent — would hear the evidence. The commission then could determine a finding and penalty, if any, or continue the hearing for more evidence.
“The length of the proceedings depends on many factors,” Hughes said. Likewise, any penalties are on a case-by-case basis.
As evidence, Mitchel contends two city publications, In Touch and Keep The Money In Beavercreek, crossed the line between fact and electioneering by using text “laced with emotional appeal, innuendo and unverifiable opinion.”
The city has had numerous staff presentations before the City Council outlining the facts to support the need for the tax and how the money would be spent. “They were factual,” Mitchel said Thursday.
Mitchel also had no problem with the city’s extensive income tax material on its Website.
Taxbusters posted a number of slides on the city’s local government access channel opposing the tax. Mitchel alleges one slide wrongfully was rejected.
Finally, Mitchel claims city council engaged in prohibited “coordinated electioneering communications” with the Committee for Tax Equity, a citizens group promoting the income tax. He points to “the profound similarity” between two recent mailings: one paid for by the city, the other by the committee.
Also Thursday, the Committee for Tax Equity filed its pre-election finance report, showing the group had raised $6,300, spending $5,350.70 by Thursday’s filing deadline. The largest contributor was Beavercreek Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 160, which gave $1,850 in support of the income tax. Mayor Vicki Giambrone, Vice Mayor Jerry Petrak, lawyer McHugh, City Manager Mike Cornell all gave $500 each. Council member Scott Hadley gave $500 in printing costs as an in-kind donation. Council member Brian Javis contributed $400.
As of the 4 p.m. deadline, Taxbusters had not filed the required finance report with the Greene County Board of Elections.