delgazette.com

A man of many firsts

November 4, 2011

MELISSA MACKEY

Staff Writer

A complaint filed with the Ohio Elections Commission (OEC) by Democrat Richard Bird against Republican State Representative Andrew Brenner (Powell) was dismissed this week.

The complaint was rejected in a unanimous decision by the OEC. The commission ruled that no violation of the state’s election laws occurred in regards to payroll tax liens against a business Brenner is tied to that were filed around the time Brenner made contributions to his campaign for state representative, said Phillip Richter, OEC director.

In early October, Bird asked for an investigation of the two federal payroll tax liens totaling about $59,000 filed against Prestige Music Studios, a Powell business owned by Brenner’s wife, Sara Marie Brenner. Brenner is vice president in his wife’s company.

Bird filed the complaint with the commission asking it determine if any money withheld from Prestige Music Studios or its employees was used to finance Andrew Brenner’s campaign for state representative.

Bird, as well as Brenner’s attorney, attended the 30-minute hearing and made presentations before the commission issued its ruling.

Richter had recommended that there was no violation based on the allegation contained in the complaint.

Bird said he wasn’t surprised by the OEC’s decision.

“It’s very difficult to work through the process because there is not an organization tasked with the investigation of these complaints,” Bird said. “The OEC reviews information provided and makes a ruling. They don’t do any investigation or fact-finding. In the end, I absolutely respect their decision, which was made based on the law today.”

Bird said he is working with Ohio lawmakers on changing the campaign finance law, so that it matches the federal campaign finance law.

“One of my frustrations is there is no process to ask or require a review of how a candidate or an elected official funds their campaign,” Bird said.

Last year, Bird accused Brenner, then Delaware County recorder, of illegally rigging a bidding process for a contract in the recorder’s office while they both ran for the state representative seat.

Brenner called Bird’s previous complaint a political stunt and on Friday said he is pleased by the OEC’s decision.

“Time and time again, my opponents have accused me of wrong doing,” he said in a written statement to the Gazette. “It’s all been false, and this time a bi-partisan panel dismissed the wild accusations with a 6-0 vote. I have a job to do serving the residents of this county, and I will not allow my opponents and those who try to stir up trouble to detract me from doing it.”

Bird said this most recent complaint is broader than targeting Brenner, but about reforming Ohio campaign finance law.

The big issue I have is that Ohio law is completely different from federal campaign law. There’s a lot stricter controls than are at the state level. It’s not about Andrew Brenner. It’s about what is good for the state of Ohio.”