By Phil Trexler
Beacon Journal staff writer
The owner of a chain of McDonald's restaurants in Stark County has issued an apology after sending a letter with his employees' paychecks encouraging them to vote for three Republicans.
Businessman Paul Siegfried sent out the apology Friday after area Democrats and Canton attorney Allen Schulman threatened to file lawsuits.
''Which we think is too little, too late,'' Schulman said of the apology.
The original letter to dozens of employees encouraged them to vote for GOP candidates John Kasich for governor, Rob Portman of the U.S. Senate and Jim Renacci for the 16th District seat in Congress.
Schulman said the letter violates state elections laws governing employer influence and intimidation of workers.
In the letter, Siegfried writes that employee wages at his company can only be raised ''if the right people'' are elected.
''If others are elected, we will not,'' he wrote.
The owner then encourages his workers to vote for the three Republicans.
In a statement released Friday, Siegfried said the letter to his employees was an ''error in judgment on my part.''
Randy Snow, a Canton attorney representing the businessman, said Siegfried was unaware of the law and had no intent to violate it.
''He was trying to protect his business and meant no harm or interference,'' Snow said Friday.
The letter was first reported by the OhioDaily Web site.
Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's office released a statement about alleged voter intimidation, saying her office would be ''investigating this and any other similar incidents and reporting our findings to the Ohio Attorney General.''
The statement also said: ''Ohio law is clear that employees cannot be subjected to intimidation or threats by an employer stating that job benefits will be affected by the election or defeat of one or more candidates. The voting public must not be affected by votes gained or lost in this way.''
Shirley Rogers Reece, general manager for McDonald's Ohio region, said the company had no knowledge the letter was being distributed and that Siegfried's action violated company policy.
''We wholeheartedly respect diverse views and opinions, and our employees' right to vote,'' she said in a statement. ''Our position is that every employee should make his or her own choice.''
McDonald's did not endorse any of the candidates mentioned in the letter, Reece said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.