A months-long investigation into signatures on an election petition has been turned over to the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office.
The investigation was conducted by the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office and concerned signatures on petitions that brought a referendum on the establishment of a joint taxing district by Berkshire Township and the city of Delaware. The taxing district was established in connection with a outlet-store shopping mall under construction in Berkshire Township.
Tracy Whited, head of community and media relations at the sheriff’s office, confirmed Thursday that detectives have forwarded their findings to prosecutors. Julie Datko, public information officer for the prosecutor’s office, confirmed that the case is under review by prosecutors.
Both offices declined to provide the findings to The Gazette because they are part of an ongoing investigation, they said.
The investigation was initiated by the Delaware County Board of Elections early this year after it alleged that two individuals signed the petition on behalf of their spouses, likely with the knowledge of a circulator of the document, thus invalidating two part-petitions in their entirety and putting the measure just short of the 130 valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. However, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered the elections board to recalculate the number of valid signatures, thus placing the issue on the May ballot. The establishment of the Joint Economic Development District was upheld by an 80 to 20 percent margin in the May election.
Deputies were reportedly investigating township residents Joyce Davis and Jeremy Rito to see if they broke the law by signing the petition for their spouses. Deputies were also reportedly investigating petition circulators to determine their involvement.
Before the May vote, township officials had said the JEDD is important because it will create a revenue stream from the 350,000-square-foot outlet mall. The money would be used by the township to create an emergency substation in the township to house law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel. Delaware plans to use its share of the revenue for road improvements.
Ground was broken for the mall in late June.
Under Ohio law, a township cannot levy an income tax except through a partnership with a municipality in creating a special taxing district. In this case, the township partnered with Delaware, which will administer the tax.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG. Dustin Ensinger contributed to this story.
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