The tumultuous tenure of Stark County Sheriff George Maier keeps getting bumpier and bumpier. This week, a fourth lawsuit was filed against him. Timothy Swanson, Maier’s predecessor, wants the salary and benefits that Maier received from February 2013, when he was first appointed to a vacancy, to the following November, when the Ohio Supreme Court removed Maier for not having the “recent service” required by state law.
Maier fixed the deficiency by working as a deputy in Harrison County, and was reappointed by local Democrats in December. Swanson challenged that move, but failed. Still, Maier faces another lawsuit, from another source, which seeks to have him repay the county for expenses. Maier, who is running in the May 6 primary, also faces a citizen protest filed at the Stark County Board of Elections that challenges his candidacy.
The lawsuits and protest should be dropped. They seem no more than sour grapes. Even Swanson has admitted Maier is capable of doing the job. His background includes work as the safety-service director of Massillon, assistant director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety and as an Ohio Highway Patrol trooper and commander. Sheriffs now handle administrative, not patrol, duties. As it is, other county officials have praised Maier’s job performance.
The episode should remind the legislature to update the qualifications for county sheriff. Ideally, county governments across Ohio would adopt a charter form of government, allowing a county executive to appoint all top administrators, choosing those he or she thinks best qualified for positions such as sheriff and engineer.
With no end in sight to the current elective system, the best course is to streamline the requirements for serving in the office to reflect more accurately the duties sheriffs perform. Unfortunately, other well-qualified candidates for sheriff are blocked from the office.
Was it really necessary for George Maier to be a uniformed police officer before taking over as Stark County sheriff? Clearly, his work in Harrison County merely met the letter of the law, adding little to his ability to serve ably the residents of Stark County.