A special prosecutor has been appointed in Perrysburg Municipal Court to handle the case of a local union official and three other men accused of possessing stolen campaign signs for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
City Prosecutor P. Martin Aubry appointed attorney Corey Speweik of Pemberville to handle the case Dec. 21.
Mr. Aubry would not take a phone call to answer questions about his appointment of a special prosecutor.
Charged in the pre-election incident were John Russell, 39, of Toledo, and Chris Monaghan 41, of Rossford, who are listed as business agents for Local 33 for the Sheet Metal Workers union. The men were in a pickup registered to Local 33 in Parma, Ohio, police said. Also cited were Corey J. Beaubien, 37, and Sean Bresler, 33, both of Toledo.
They are facing a first-degree misdemeanor charge of receiving stolen property.
Mr. Russell is also a vice president of the Northwest Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council, an association of more than a dozen local construction unions.
Joe Cousino, president of the construction trades council, said Thursday the organization is not happy about the situation and does not approve of illegal campaign tactics.
"We don't think that's the right way of going about doing business," Mr. Cousino said.
However, he questioned whether there is enough evidence or basis for a conviction. He said the men were not seen removing signs and if the signs had been placed illegally in the first place, such as in the public right of way, they would have been "fair game."
Mr. Russell's lawyer, Joshua M. Hughes, declined to comment.
One Perrysburg resident, Dave Kienzle, said he lost a sign from his property the same night the men were allegedly found with Romney-Ryan signs. He said his was mounted on plywood and screwed to posts and that he had bought it from the Northwest Ohio Conservative Coalition for about $100.
"Under the circumstances it would be hard to believe that my sign was not involved," said Mr. Kienzle, who added he would be willing to inspect the evidence. "It's certainly a sign of disrespect for my constitutional rights" to have his sign removed, he said.
According to court records, the truck with political signs in the back was stopped in the 11000 block of Fremont Pike, Perrysburg, about 12:30 a.m. Nov. 2.
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