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Published: Thursday, 8/21/2003

GOP selects new candidate for office

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Less than three months before he was expected to run for re-election, the embattled Van Wert city law director has announced his resignation, effective Sept. 12.

George Crummey, who's facing local criminal charges as well as investigations by the Ohio Supreme Court's disciplinary counsel, withdrew from the ballot and tendered a resignation letter on Tuesday.

Mr. Crummey did not disclose a reason for his departure, officials said. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

As a result of his resignation, Mr. Crummey's name will not appear on the November ballot. Linda Stutz, Van Wert County elections director, said local lawyer Jill Leatherman has been named the new Republican candidate for law director.

She will face Gregory Unterbrink, a Democrat, and Todd Wolfrum, an independent, in the general election, Ms. Stutz said.

Martin Burchfield, the Republican Party chairman, said he was not surprised that Mr. Crummey decided to resign, but he said he was unsure of the timing.

He said party members were pleased that they still had time to put another candidate on the ballot. It would have been too late after 4 p.m. today.

“I'm very happy that we are able to get a good candidate on the ballot - one we feel can win and who wants this job,” Mr. Burchfield said.

On Sept. 17, Republican Party committee members will meet to discuss who will serve as law director for the remainder of Mr. Crummey's term, he said.

Mr. Crummey narrowly beat Van Wert Mayor Stephen Gehres in May in the Republican primary for law director. Mr. Gehres could not be reached for comment yesterday, but Mr. Burchfield said the mayor did not express recent interest in the job.

Mr. Crummey, who's served nearly an entire four-year term as law director, has been indicted on two counts of theft and one count each of theft in office and falsification in a theft in office, all felonies, and a misdemeanor charge of receiving improper compensation.

He's accused of diverting about $2,200 from funds intended for payment to his office staff.

Additionally, a state audit claims Mr. Crummey billed the city more than $17,000 from Jan. 1, 2001, through March 8, 2002, for services that were covered under the law director's salary.

Mr. Crummey has pleaded not guilty to the charges in Van Wert County Common Pleas Court. The next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 28, with a trial planned for Oct. 6.

In addition to the criminal charges, Mr. Crummey faces charges of misconduct in two separate cases filed with the Ohio Supreme Court's Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline.

One case was filed by disciplinary counsel Jonathan Coughlan and alleges that Mr. Crummey overcharged the city by more than $17,000. The 13-page complaint alleges other violations as well.

Court officials said yesterday that a three-judge panel on Nov. 7 will hear details of that case in Toledo Municipal Court. Afterward, the panel will prepare a report to the board of commissioners, which is charged with making a final recommendation in the matter to the Supreme Court.

The other case, which was filed by the Northwestern Ohio Bar Association, alleges that Mr. Crummey failed to correct an error in a divorce settlement, despite repeated requests from his client. It also accused him of waiting more than a year to pay medical bills for a client who received a settlement as a result of an auto accident.

That matter was heard in May by a three-judge panel, which next must make its recommendation to the board of commissioners.



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