Two Republican judicial candidates have been fined and disciplined by the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct for using campaign material that could mislead voters into thinking they’re already Summit County Common Pleas judges.

Three members of the professional conduct board, which is appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court to investigate complaints of misconduct and campaign violations by judges and lawyers, fined Assistant Attorney General Tom McCarty and trial attorney Dave Lombardi $1,200 each for using campaign T-shirts and yard signs that stated their names and the word “judge” in large lettering. In between, the word “for” is printed in a smaller font, which if overlooked would give the appearance that the men are incumbent judges seeking re-election. They are not.

The conduct board’s nearly identical, eight-page rulings for each candidate say the acts were done with “reckless disregard” because the men were trained this year on election law, including a 2013 change requiring the word “for” to be no smaller than the words that come before or after on campaign literature.

Lombardi, according the ruling, used the same yard signs in 2012, when it would have been permissible to use the smaller font. The board acknowledged that the men made an effort to remove any political advertisements carrying the misleading information. Neither has been the subject of prior discipline.

The board ultimately concluded that both men “did not act with any selfish or dishonest motive.” The three-member board panel also rejected an argument by Summit County Democratic Party Treasurer Chris Grimm, who filed the complaint against the two Republicans, that each individual yard sign or T-shirt warrants a separate violation and unique, $600 fine.

“It's a political smear job by my opponent's party complaining about the font size of one word on my parade banners and t-shirts,” McCarty said.

Lombardi told the professional conduct panel that the error was an oversight. Grimm alleged that the candidates were “trying to mislead voters with their advertising.”

“We want everyone to know these two candidates are not judges, and we applaud the Board’s ruling,” Grimm said in a statement released Sunday with the board’s findings. “Voters deserve to have the proper information so they can make informed decisions when they vote.”

 

Reach Doug Livingston at 330-996-3792 or dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com.