Middletown chief: No public support for judge; website says different

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Middletown chief: No public support for judge; website says different

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Judge Melynda Cook Howard (pictured) lists Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw as a public official who has endorsed her on her campaign’s Facebook page. The police chief says he has not publicly endorsed her, but won’t ask Cook Howard to remove the reference. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Middletown’s police chief won’t ask a candidate for Municipal Court judge to remove a reference on Facebook that cites his endorsement, despite saying that he has not publicly endorsed her.

Incumbent Judge Melynda Cook Howard lists Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw as a public official who has endorsed her on her campaign’s Facebook page.

“I’m a citizen and I have an opinion just like anyone else,” Muterspaw told this news outlet, adding that does not publicly endorse candidates for city council or for judicial races and has not publicly endorsed Cook Howard. “I have to be careful about what I say publicly. All I care about is keeping Middletown safe.”

However, he said he has not asked Cook Howard to delete the endorsement from her campaign Facebook page “because I do support her and she’s doing a great job. I just can’t endorse her publicly.”

“I don’t want my officers to be in a tough spot over a council or judge election and I don’t like to see our officers being pulled into these things,” Muterspaw said.

Also listed on Cook Howard’s campaign Facebook page is an endorsement from Middletown Fire Chief Paul Lolli.

“It’s a non-partisan race,” Lolli said. “We can participate as long as it’s non-partisan.”

In addition to the list of endorsements, the Facebook page also has a photograph of Cook Howard sitting at the court bench with Muterspaw and Lolli, both in uniform, and several police officers.

Cook-Howard said she’s endorsed by the Middletown Firefighters union, and the Fraternal Order of Police lodges representing Middletown police officers and Butler County Sheriff’s deputies.

She also said the other endorsements “are clearly defined by the chiefs by their own words and support.”

The Facebook page also includes a photo of Cook Howard and Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones, but there was no endorsement listed.

Jones said he takes a lot of photos with a lot of people.

“Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t,” he said of endorsing political candidates. “I have not endorsed or given my support to any candidate in the Middletown (Municipal Court judge) race. I don’t know if endorsements actually help now, but it beats a poke in the eye. I get along with everyone who is running.”

Cook Howard, who was appointed in May by Gov. John Kasich to replace the late Judge Mark Wall, is running to retain the seat. Also running are local attorneys James Sherron and Elizabeth Yauch.

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