NAPOLEON - Henry County Commissioner Steven A. Baden was led out of his office in handcuffs yesterday by county Sheriff John Nye, who arrested him on a warrant charging him with the attempted abduction of a 14-year-old girl in South Toledo on Jan. 31.
Mr. Baden, 39, of Hamler - where he is a former mayor - was booked into the Lucas County jail at 1:30 p.m. and remained there until 8 p.m. when he was released on a $2,500 bond posted by a bondsman. He is to appear this morning in Toledo Municipal Court on the charge, a fourth-degree felony.
"This is a first," Sheriff Nye said of the arrest of a county official during his 25 years in the sheriff's office.
Toledo police accuse Mr. Baden of following a girl in his car and then running after her.
The girl was convinced that he was going to attack her, Toledo Police Sgt. George Kral said.
About 4:30 p.m. on that Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Baden was in his red Mustang in the area of, coincidentally, Baden Street and Walbridge Avenue, Sergeant Kral said.
The girl and a friend of the same age were walking home from school. Mr. Baden allegedly drove around the block four or five times, watching them in such a way that they were scared, Sergeant Kral said.
The victim went to her home, changed clothes, and after about a half hour, left to walk to a friend's home. She saw Mr. Baden in his car, Sergeant Kral said.
At the nearby Broadway Food Center, Mr. Baden got out of his car and called, "Come here little girl," Sergeant Kral said. The girl instead ran "in fear of her life," according to the arrest warrant. The suspect chased her for a short time on foot before he returned to his car, Sergeant Kral said.
The girl ran to a friend's home and dialed 911.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that his intentions were less than honorable," Sergeant Kral said.
The girl had memorized the suspect's license plate number and identified his driver's license picture when police showed it to her in a selection of pictures, the sergeant said.
If convicted of attempted abduction, Mr. Baden could face up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Sergeant Kral said he talked to Mr. Baden for several hours yesterday after he was arrested, but would not discuss that interview.
Mr. Baden was the only commissioner in the commissioners' offices at the time of his arrest. President of the commissioners Richard Bennett and Vice President Rita Franz were at a meeting in Defiance County.
"Naturally, I was shocked," Mrs. Franz said of the phone call from the commissioners' office that she received at the meeting. "He's a very good man."
Mr. Baden, who is married and has two preschool-age sons, is a hard worker, she said, repeating, "Steve's a very good man."
Mr. Bennett said he could not comment because he knew nothing about the case.
Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Franz will go ahead, they said, with a public hearing on a proposed sales tax at 9:30 this morning in the commissioners' offices.
The hearing, along with a second session Feb. 13, was scheduled for the commissioners to listen to the public's comments about putting a 0.5 percent sales tax on the May ballot. Voters had overwhelmingly repealed the tax in November after the commissioners put it on the books in the summer without first asking voters.
Mr. Baden's arrest is one of numerous jolts to the county during the last two weeks.
The county, which is in such a financial crunch that the sheriff laid off four road deputies this winter, has run up $12,000 in late penalties and finance charges from the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System because county Auditor Ida Bostelman had been late with payments. Last week, commissioners learned the auditor had overcharged property tax rolls by $700,000 on a courthouse renovation levy. The commissioners decided to put the extra money toward other debt, saying they did not know of a way they could return it to taxpayers.
Mr. Baden was president of the county commissioners last year and has been a commissioner since 2003, when he was appointed by the county Republican Central Committee to replace Richard Bertz, who resigned because of ill health.
Mr. Baden's term on the board of commissioners expires in 2008. He ran unopposed for the seat in 2004. He was previously mayor of Hamler from 2000 to 2003.
Mr. Baden is not the first Ohio county commissioner to be held in jail while holding office in recent years.
David F. Swartz, a former commissioner in Richland County, is in Mansfield Correctional Institution on an eight-year sentence imposed in 2004 for two felony counts of sexual battery of two teenage girls. He resigned from the board of commissioners a few months before he was sentenced.
Ohio law does not specifically prohibit a commissioner convicted of a felony from remaining in office, unless that felony is a theft.
Contact Jane Schmucker
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