Bryan Flannery is a former failed Secretary of State candidate who believes that despite being out of the public eye for four years, he will do better against Ken Blackwell than the twenty-point spanking he took in 2002. So, he has decided to run for Governor, and continued to run, despite no endorsements, money, name-recognition, or grassroots support. His one and only issue is education funding reform. But his proposal is so unpopular that the education community has not endorsed it and it's failed to make the ballot as a constitutional amendment initiative twice.
Due to his poor fundraising and lack of name recognition (and those who do recognize him remember him from his past failed statewide election campaign), Flannery hasn't even registered as so much as a statistical blip on the polls, even though he is the only other Democratic candidate for Governor besides Congressman Ted Strickland. AP decided in February that it wouldn't even cover his campaign.
So shortly after recruiting Eric Fingerhut's gubernatorial campaign manager, Anthony Fossaceca, who apparently did such an amazing job during the month-long Fingerhut Gubernatorial campaign to be hired as Flannery's Communication Director, Team Flannery sent out this press release in which, among other baseless and unattributed allegations, accused someone on Strickland's behalf of illegal removing public records from the Athens County court system to hide a former staffer's criminal record. Flannery demands in a letter to the county prosecutor to investigate the records' "disappearance."
Upon presented with the truth, Flannery alleges he's a victim of a conspiracy by Strickland, a county prosecutor, a sitting judge, and the Ohio Revised Code.
If Flannery's plan was to have the press release wound Strickland and get Flannery enough attention to boost his support, it failed spectacularly. Most state media groups reacted with the same indifference it has to the Flannery campaign all along and didn't report it. Those that did report it focused more on the breathtaking sleeze and political cravenness of Flannery. Clearly, Flannery expected and hoped that the smear would have a lengthy news shelf life; that's why he asked for the investigation by the Athens County Prosecutor so that the smear could come back in future news cycles. However, within hours of the press release, the Strickland campaign effectively killed whatever newsworthiness Flannery's smear had. It was Flannery's campaign, not Strickland's, that suddenly found itself on the defensive.
Conservative blogger Michael Meckler called it a "stunning . . . unsubstantiated rumor" of "questionable" relevance. The general consensus was not that Flannery had wounded Strickland as much as shot himself in the foot. As Steve Hoffman of the Akron Beacon Journal blog stated, either Flannery knew he was making a reckless allegation based on unsubstantiated rumor or his campaign is incompetent. "Neither is particularly flattering."
Surprisingly, even after being presented with evidence that the criminal court records had not been illegally "stolen" but were legally sealed by court order, Flannery then demanded a special prosecutor investigate the matter.
Why a special prosecutor, Mr. Flannery? To investigate what all evidence suggests was a lawful expungement? Instead of admitting that he was wrong to suggest that Athens County is a hillbilly kangaroo court system of spectacular corruption, Mr. Flannery began to insist that his political attack failed, not because he was wrong, but because the county prosecutor (who was not the prosecutor at the time the alleged criminal activity occurred) and a sitting judge were part of the conspiracy.
You can read all about Flannery's tin-hat conspiracy theories and the rather annoyed and insulted responses from the Athens County Prosecutor and Judge from this Athens News article.
In it, Flannery suggests that the records could not have been sealed because he cannot find any record of it being sealed. Having already publicly embarrassed himself with his legal ignorance once, Flannery states, "Check the Ohio Revised Code. There is no evidence that this (case) was ever expunged, and there should be. And that's what people should be looking into."
As a lawyer, I decided to take up Mr. Flannery's challenge by checking the Ohio Revised Code.
So Mr. Flannery, again, the reason you cannot find any evidence that the records were legally expunged is because, under the Ohio Revised Code, you have no lawful purpose of viewing the evidence of the records' expungement.
R.C. 2953.32(D) states that inspection of the sealed records "may only be made available to the following persons or for the following purposes:
(1) By a law enforcement officer or prosecutor, or the assistants of either, to determine whether the nature and character of the offense with which a person is to be charged would be affected by virtue of the person's previously having been convicted of a crime;
(2) By the parole or probation officer of the person who is the subject of the records, for the exclusive use of the officer in supervising the person while on parole or probation and in making inquiries and written reports as requested by the court or adult parole authority;
(3) Upon application by the person who is the subject of the records, by the persons named in the application;
(4) By a law enforcement officer who was involved in the case, for use in the officer's defense of a civil action arising out of the officer's involvement in that case;
(5) By a prosecuting attorney or the prosecuting attorney's assistants to determine a defendant's eligibility to enter a pre-trial diversion program established pursuant to section 2935.36 of the Revised Code;
(6) By any law enforcement agency or any authorized employee of a law enforcement agency or by the department of rehabilitation and correction as part of a background investigation of a person who applies for employment with the agency as a law enforcement officer or with the department as a corrections officer;
(7) By any law enforcement agency or any authorized employee of a law enforcement agency, for the purposes set forth in, and in the manner provided in, section 2953.321 of the Revised Code;
(8) By the bureau of criminal identification and investigation or any authorized employee of the bureau for the purpose of providing information to a board or person pursuant to division (F) or (G) of section 109.57 of the Revised Code;
(9) By the bureau of criminal identification and investigation or any authorized employee of the bureau for the purpose of performing a criminal history records check on a person to whom a certificate as prescribed in section 109.77 of the Revised Code is to be awarded;
(10) By the bureau of criminal identification and investigation, an authorized employee of the bureau, a sheriff, or an authorized employee of the sheriff in connection with a criminal records check described in section 311.41 of the Revised Code.
When the nature and character of the offense with which a person is to be charged would be affected by the information, it may be used for the purpose of charging the person with an offense."
Maybe now Mr. Flannery will take off his tin-foil hat and act like a responsible leader and admit his mistake and fire Anthony Fossaceca for making such a politically irresponsible political smear.
But Mr. Flannery won't do that. He's still insisting that he's right and countless journalists, lawyers, and judges don't understand the law as well as he does. However, the fact that Mr. Flannery does not have the press release at issue , nor his allegations of missing evidence of sealed records, on his campaign website raise the question of how much even Mr. Flannery believes his own conspiracy theories. Nor has Mr. Flannery had the intestinal fortitude to repeat his claims in any of the recent public debates (such as last weekend's "Meet the Blogger's" debate) and forums he has had recently with Congressman Strickland.
Mr. Flannery, if you have any decency, then fire Anthony Fossaceca!
If Mr. Flannery truly believes that "the very foundation of government is honesty" and that "he exemplifies the highest degree of honesty and character," then he should immediately apologize to Athens County for his mistake and hold his staff accountable for making such false accusations. Otherwise, Mr. Flannery's smear won't be the only lie he's been spreading during this campaign.