March 26, 2012
LIMA — Brian Cheney denied knowledge Monday of the way in which one of his petitions circulated and expressed disappointment about being removed as a county commissioner candidate from the November ballot.The Allen County Board of Elections rejected Cheney's petitions Friday because of a lack of valid signatures. Also at the meeting Friday, elections Director Ken Terry said he filed a report with the Allen County Sheriff's Office because he believed he witnessed elections falsification, a fifth-degree felony, in regard to how Cheney's petitions for his candidacy circulated.Cheney, who runs a political consulting firm, said he “entrusted” three petitions to former Lima councilman Ray Magnus for circulation and had no contact with the paperwork until after the petitions were signed.“At no time did I authorize or entrust anyone else but him to obtain valid signatures on the petitions,” Cheney said. “I am confident in my nonliability in this matter.”Cheney said his campaign was “a victim” of the alleged incident, and he was surprised on Friday about the turn of events.He also said he communicated to Magnus that his actions caused problems for the campaign. He declined further comment because of the ongoing Allen County Sheriff's Office investigation.Cheney, whose brother Keith Cheney is the chairman of the Allen County Republican Party, was running as a nonpartisan candidate.The board rejected one of Cheney's petitions because its circulator was listed as Larry Magnus. Magnus, brother of Ray Magnus, is a convicted felon who remains on community control. Convicted felons can be circulators, and they do not need to be registered voters to do so, but they cannot be on any kind of probation. Larry Magnus served 30 days in jail in January after pleading guilty to attempted weapons under disability and was placed on three years of community control.However, while Larry Magnus was listed as the circulator, he did not circulate the petition, Terry said. In reviewing the petitions, Terry recognized the sheet and realized he had witnessed the petition in question being circulated. People he was with, including his mother-in-law, had signed the petition, which seemed to be passed without a circulator.Magnus said he left the petition in question at Vino Bellissimo for circulation, and some signatures were gathered there. Magnus then took back the petition and had his brother gather other signatures. Ray Magnus said he did not know someone on community control could not circulate petitions. Larry Magnus signed the petition for the signatures he gathered, and Ray Magnus said he intended to take the petition back to Vino Bellissimo to get the petition signed by the other circulator, but got sick and forgot to do so.“Brian has no liability in this. There was no criminal intent, no intent to do anything wrong,” Ray Magnus said. “It was just a mistake. I forgot. I got sick for over a week and it never crossed my mind again.”A circulator can sign a petition before or after gathering signatures. The circulator is attesting to the fact that they witnessed the signatures. Each circulator should circulate separate petitions and only one circulator should sign each petition as a witness.The board's decision on Friday means Cheney will not be on the ballot in November, and commissioner candidate Jay Begg will be uncontested in the fall. However, Cheney left open the option to appeal the Elections Board's decisions, saying his campaign and legal associates are reviewing available options.After the board rejected two of Cheney's 25 petitions, or signature sheets, and several other invalid signatures on otherwise valid petitions, Cheney had 311 valid signatures on his petitions. He had turned in 386 total and needed 330 valid.