Eligibility of Lucas Remains at Issue

Belmont County Sheriff Dave Lucas’ eligibility to hold the office continues to be scrutinized, as his general election opponent, Democrat Richard Flanagan, has filed a falsification complaint against Lucas with the St. Clairsville Police Department.

Flanagan’s cousin and attorney, Mark Landers, also is planning to file a “quo warranto action” with the Ohio Supreme Court. Landers said these types of actions are “issued against a person or corporation for usurpation, misuse, or abuse of public office or corporate office or franchise.”

The latest moves comes after the Belmont County Board of Elections denied separate petitions filed by Landers and his brother, Gary Landers, against Lucas’ qualifications to be sheriff. Lucas, a Republican, was sworn into office earlier this month.

Flanagan and his supporters contend the issue with Lucas’ qualifications surround his employment history.

Section 311.01 (8)(a) of the Ohio Revised Code states that a qualified candidate for sheriff must have “obtained or held, within the four-year period ending immediately prior to the qualification date, a valid basic peace officer certificate of training and … has been employed as an appointee … or as a full-time peace officer. …”

Lucas’ application to be certified as a viable sheriff candidate lists his retirement date from the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department as a full-time officer as Oct. 31, 2007.

After that, Lucas is listed as being employed by the sheriff’s department from 2007 until present as a reserve officer.

This was included in the qualification packet that Judge Jennifer Sargus received and subsequently signed for the Belmont County Board of Elections, certifying Lucas as a candidate.

Lucas said his qualifications are valid. “This issue was addressed through the election board in the past. My qualifications were certified by the judge and the election board. The people of Belmont County elected me to do a job and I’m going to do that job.”

Lucas was appointed as a reserve officer effective Oct. 31, 2007, on paperwork sent from the sheriff’s department to Sargus.

On the listing for reserve officer, a check mark was next to special, not full-time, on appointment status.

“If you look at the sheriff’s office web page, it says you have to perform 16 hours a month of voluntary time,” Mark Landers said. “According to Ohio Revised Code, he has had to have been a full-time police officer within four years of the certification date. He was not.”

Former Belmont County sheriff Fred Thompson filed a similar petition during the primary concerning Lucas’ qualifications. Thompson’s petition was denied because he is a registered Democrat.

Landers questions who should have looked into Lucas’ qualifications: Sargus or the elections board.

When questioned, election board members said they relied on Sargus’ findings.

“We accepted Judge Sargus’ information,” board member Carl Lehman said.

Correspondence between Sargus and the election board reads that:

“Attached please find the necessary order verifying that Dave Lucas has fulfilled the requirements of Ohio Revised Code Section 311.01 as determined by this court in its assigned capacity.”

Section 311.01 also requires boards of election to certify candidate’s qualifications.