Stark County Democrats were warned that George Maier lacked the necessary qualifications, as defined by state law, to serve as the county sheriff. They went ahead with the appointment, anyway. On Wednesday, or nine months later, a 5-2 majority of the Ohio Supreme Court booted Maier from the position.
The majority delivered a close reading of the law, determining that Maier felt short of the qualifications because he did not serve as a “full-time peace officer” for a sufficient period before entering the office. So county Democrats must pick up the task of making another appointment.
They aren’t alone in having work to do. As Justice Paul Pfeifer argued in dissent, the circumstances point to something nearly absurd. Maier did not meet the letter of the law, yet he sure appears qualified for the position. As it is, other county officials have applauded his performance.
Maier brought to the job what too many county sheriffs lack, a blend of management and law enforcement experience. The former State Highway Patrol Officer served as assistant director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, supervising many employees, even working with investigative agents in the field, carrying a badge and a weapon. Did that police work fill all of his time? No, he had broader responsibilities in the office.
As Pfeifer noted, such a range ordinarily would be viewed as enhancing his profile. The justice added that today the state attorney general wouldn’t meet the qualifications for county sheriff. Which should put the onus on state lawmakers to update the requirements for the sheriff position, opening the way for voters to choose someone as clearly qualified as George Maier to serve in the job.