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Temp workers get probation for faking rights repeal petitions
Cincinnati--Two temporary workers were sentenced for falsifying election petitions on August 20, as the judge repeated his assertion that their politician boss should have been charged in the case.
Lois Mingo and Precilla Ward pleaded guilty to election falsification on July 11. Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman put both women on probation and ordered 200 hours of community service.
The case stemmed from work they did gathering signatures to overturn Cincinnati’s LGBT equal rights ordinance last year.
The petitions were withdrawn after the pro-ordinance group Citizens to Restore Fairness discovered the falsification.
Mingo and Ward were hired by Equal Rights Not Special Rights, which offered bonuses to signature gatherers for meeting daily quotas.
State Rep. Thomas A. Brinkman ran the petition drive at the behest of Phil Burress, the head of ERNSR and Citizens for Community Values, the group behind the anti-marriage amendment to Ohio’s constitution.
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Ruehlman, who is a Republican like Brinkman, told the women, “To cheat on petitions in an election is to really rob people of freedom. It’s the foundation of democracy. You have to pay for that.”
He then restated his belief that the true villain in the case is Brinkman, not the women.
Brinkman was investigated by a grand jury, but it found insufficient evidence to indict him.
“I still think the real culprit is Rep. Brinkman,” Ruehlman said. “I know politics. Somehow he falls through the cracks and is not prosecuted. The guy in power is the one who should have been indicted.”
Earlier in Mingo and Ward’s trial, assistant prosecutor David Stevenson told the judge about alterations that were made to petitions, such as changing the addresses of people who lived outside of Cincinnati to those of Cincinnati voters with similar names.
Stevenson said that Brinkman admitted to changing the addresses, and that the lawmaker said he had been told by his lawyer, David Langdon, that he could make those changes.
Langdon also represents Citizens for Community Values and Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters, who he has referred to in newspaper articles as his client.
Deters and his staff oversaw the investigation and grand jury process that indicted the two women, but not Brinkman.
Brinkman and Deters are also both involved in the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, an anti-tax group founded by Brinkman.
In the earlier hearing, Ruehlman suggested that the Ohio House of Representatives censure Brinkman, but he also pointed blame at Burress’s group.
“This is all Citizens for Community Values. They’re kind of high and mighty, always talking about pornography and things like that,” Ruehlman said. “I think free election and voting is the most important community value, don’t you? I think that’s one of the values maybe they’re missing here.”
Ruehlman said during the sentencing that Stevenson was “backing off” his statement in court that Brinkman had changed addresses.
Eric Resnick contributed to this story.