The Lucas County Board of Elections employee who sparked an investigation against board member Jon Stainbrook has a criminal record that includes an assault charge.
Three members of the Lucas County Board of Elections voted Thursday to launch an investigation against Mr. Stainbrook to determine if he sent a text to a board employee encouraging him to drag out preparations for the May 6 election. Mr. Stainbrook denied sending such a text to former seasonal board employee Jacob Sanford.
Seasonal board warehouse employee Eric LaPlante on April 23 said he saw a text from Mr. Stainbrook to Mr. Sanford telling him, “work slowly as possible and do not report any errors.”
Mr. LaPlante said he saw the text “a day or two after” Stainbrook-ally Meghan Gallagher was fired as director, which occurred on March 4.
The accusation emerged during one of the two hearings conducted last month by a “transparency committee” appointed by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. The board voted 3-0 Thursday, with Mr. Stainbrook abstaining, to begin the investigation.
Oregon Municipal Court records show Mr. LaPlante pleaded no contest to one count of assault March 4, 2013, and was found guilty for a Nov. 17, 2012, assault. A second assault charge was dismissed.
According to Oregon police records, Mr. LaPlante told police “he had smoked, snorted, and ate bath salts.”
Police said when they arrived at Mr. LaPlante’s apartment complex, they found him in a hallway naked, “in a fetal position.” Police said two women at the complex told them he attacked them, but they were able to fight him off, one with the help of her husband.
Mr. LaPlante did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Mr. Stainbrook and Ms. Gallagher told a Blade reporter Mr. LaPlante had a criminal conviction that involved the use of bath salts. The two spoke after the “transparency committee” during which Mr. LaPlante made the accusation.
Mr. Stainbrook said Friday he was not trying to discredit his accuser but he did send a copy of the online court docket to The Blade. But Mr. Stainbrook questioned if Mr. LaPlante was credible because of the conviction and is currently on probation because of the conviction.
“When Eric LaPlante made this false statement against me, my credibility was brought into question. But the issue should be Eric LaPlante’s credibility” Mr. Stainbrook said. “With his criminal record and history of drug abuse, it’s clear he is not credible.”
Records provided by Mr. Stainbrook support his claim that he did not send a text telling elections workers to slow down. Mr. Stainbrook on Thursday, with the help of Ms. Gallagher, voluntarily logged into his Verizon cell phone account on a laptop computer at The Blade building. A Blade reporter who looked through the online record saw no records of text messages between Mr. Stainbrook and Mr. Sanford during the period claimed by Mr. LaPlante.
Mr. Stainbrook’s Verizon cell phone account showed a text between him and Mr. Sanford on Feb. 24 and two more on March 11, but none in between. Mr. Stainbrook said he has no other cell phones.
In an interview with The Blade, Mr. Sanford said he never received such an instruction from Mr. Stainbrook, and that he’s willing to share his phone records with the board. He said it would take a couple of weeks to get his records once they are requested.
Mr. Stainbrook said political opponents are hoping to raise questions in voters’ minds and cause him to lose his election for GOP state central committee on the primary election ballot Tuesday. Mr. Stainbrook is being challenged by former Toledo tavern owner Bill Delaney.
Election board chairman Ron Rothenbuhler said he’d never met Mr. LaPlante before this week and knew nothing of his record.
“It’s an allegation in the first place — I made that very clear — easy to make, but more difficult to prove. That’s why there’s an investigation,” Mr. Rothenbuhler said. He denied seeking to influence the Republican central committee race.
“I don’t deal in Republican politics. I have enough trouble with Democrats,” said Mr. Rothenbuhler, who is the Lucas County Democratic chairman.
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