Felony conviction may keep newcomer off New Miami council

The water tower in Village of New Miami is now operational after Butler County gave New Miami $40,000 in Community Development Block Grant money to install the pressure reducing valve that was necessary to bring the dormant tower online. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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The water tower in Village of New Miami is now operational after Butler County gave New Miami $40,000 in Community Development Block Grant money to install the pressure reducing valve that was necessary to bring the dormant tower online. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

A woman elected to the New Miami village council last month might not be able to take office in January because of a 10-year-old felony conviction for forgery.

Megan Horn, who ran unopposed, was indicted for felony theft and forgery in September 2009. She pleaded guilty to forgery and was ordered to pay $473.28 in restitution to Walmart.

She faced a year-long prison term but was given five years of community control instead. She could also have been fined up to $2,500, but now-retired Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Patricia Oney set the fine at $250.

“It was 10 years ago, I was young and irresponsible and made some bad decisions,” said Horn, who was 20 at the time.

State statutes say she would not be eligible to hold office unless she had the conviction erased. Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Stephens would need to approve expungment.

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“I am a hairdresser, and it’s something I was told I just didn’t (need) to waste my time and the money to get it expunged with my career right now,” Horn said. “It’s something that does not affect that. Had it, I would have already had it expunged. If I would have known it would affect anything with council here, I would have had it expunged.”

She said someone at the Butler County Board of Elections told her when she went to pick up petitions for the elections that the conviction would not be an issue.

“I had asked the Board of Elections when I went up to get my paperwork, and they said as far as (they knew), there is nothing (to prevent her from serving),” Horn said.

BOE Deputy Director Eric Corbin said his agency does not offer legal advice, and this matter is something for the village and the county prosecutor to figure out.

“The Butler County Board of Elections does not provide any guidance on this issue as it is not within the duties of the board,” Corbin said. “We do not provide legal advice to any candidate. Our clerks did not provide any advice on this situation.”

When contacted by the Journal-News on Tuesday, Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser said that “she is in violation of the law and we are seeking removal.”

Gmoser’s office filed an action with 12th District Court of Appeals late Tuesday asking the judges to “declare her incompetent to to hold office” and order her to refrain from taking the oath of office.

“(Horn) is incompetent to hold public office involving substantial management or control over property of a political subdivision, namely the Village of New Miami,” the filing reads.

New Miami Mayor-elect Stephanie Chandler supports Horn.

“She’s paid her debt to society, she’s fulfilled her obligations, she has paid for her mistakes and suffered the consequences of them, and I believe she has redeemed herself,” Chandler said.

Mayor Bob Henley turned in his resignation late last month, before the end of his term, after his election defeat. He told the Journal-News last week he will try to get back on council.

“I’m going to try to be on council anyway, no matter what, as soon as my resignation or the end of my term, whichever way I decide to go, is through, I’m putting in my application for council,” he said previously.

Horn said she contacted the Ohio Attorney General and Secretary of State about three weeks ago and talked to a lawyer at the state ethics board who told her she will “be fine” to serve since the position wasn’t fiscal officer.

“I know they’re going to try and stop me, because I have been told this is the seat Bob plans on taking over. But to my knowledge, he cannot,” she said. “But I’ve contacted a lawyer and everything, and I was told I am fine.”

Henley considered asking the current council to ignore his letter of resignation but told the Journal-News he would not. He declined further comment.

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