State Representative Nino Vitale said it was a local newspaper that alerted him that campaign violations had been issued against him, not the state agency that filed the charges.
The complaint was submitted to the Ohio Elections Commission by Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Wednesday, two days after Vitale co-signed Articles of Impeachment against Gov. Mike DeWine.
The newspaper apparently leaned of the alleged violations in a press release from the Secretary of State’s office.
The Urbana, Ohio, Conservative has been an outspoken critic of the way DeWine has handled Covid-19 and was one of three representatives to co-sponsor a Resolution to Impeach the Governor on Monday.
The complaint alleges that Vitale used campaign resources for a firearms course that he instructs.
Other allegations include failure to file a true, full and itemized campaign finance report, failure to keep a strict account of all contributions, failure to disclose all expenditures over $25, and failure to deposit all contributions into a separate business account.
“Here comes the smear campaign,” said Vitale. “That is how they keep names off impeachment.
“LaRose is sending out press releases about me. There are about 200 of these a year. Why am I special?”
Vitale said his reports to the state have been the same for years.
“The Ohio Ethics Commission has okayed what I have been doing for seven years,” said the representative.
Vitale said he has worked with the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee for years to make certain his Concealed Carry Weapons permit traing class did not conflict with state ethics requirements.
“For seven years I have been asking Ethics, is it okay to do the CCW stuff through my campaign and they said it was. Now they have filed against me after Ethics said it was OK,” said Vitale.
One of the allegations involves an election finance report that was filed one day late.
Ohio Elections Commission Executive Director Phillip C. Richter said the anticipated date for a hearing would be mid-November or December.
Richtor confirmed that a number of complaints are received each year from the Secretary of State’s office, on average between 80 to 200. Another 500 to 700 complaints to the Ethics Commission come from Boards of Election, the director said.
“The assertion of the Secretary of State’s office is that there have been violations of certain provisions of Ohio election’s laws,” said Richtor.
The complaint also alleges that Vitale converted for personal use his campaign website, email and marketing program and social media accounts.
Documents filed with the complaint say that Friends to Elect Nino Vitale paid for Facebook ads that promoted Vitale’s concealed carry weapons permit classes. Vitale is an instructor and has a shooting range on his Champaign County property. Each was for under $100.
The Secretary of State is reportedly in the process of auditing Vitale’s campaign finance reports and will meet with him on Friday.
An inquiry to LaRose’s office has not yet received a response.