Election Official: I Removed Info From Checks After Pureval Campaign Manager Asked If It Was Legal

Sep 19, 2018
Originally published on September 20, 2018 1:59 pm

The deputy director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections said this morning she blacked out the memo line on four checks after Sarah Topy, Aftab Pureval's campaign manager asked her if it was legal to do so. 

Sally Krisel, a long-time employee of the board and former elections director, said Thursday morning that she believed it was legal. 

Krisel apologized to the board of elections and elections director Sherry Poland at an "emergency meeting" of the elections board held this morning.

While board members agree that Krisel was guilty of poor judgement in blacking out the checks, there is no evidence she did anything against the law.

The issue is tied to a complaint filed by Mark Miller of COAST, an anti-tax and government spending group, accusing Pureval, a Democrat, of taking $30,000 from his Hamilton County Clerk of Courts campaign fund and spending in on his federal campaign to oust Republican incumbent Steve Chabot. That spending could be illegal.

The Ohio Elections Commission will hold a hearing on the complaint against Pureval in Columbus on Thursday.

The memo lines of the checks redacted by Krisel detailed what the money was spent for, but Krisel felt it was legal to do the redaction as long as the purpose for the money was listed in Pureval's campaign finance report.

It occurred when Pureval campaign manager Sarah Topy visited Krisel's office at the board of elections in Norwood this summer and asked if memo lines could be redacted from checks in campaign finance reports.

"My understanding of the law is that it is permissible to redact the memo line,'' Krisel told the board. "My mistake was not insisting that the campaign manager redact it herself."

Krisel apologized for what she did and said she should have told elections director Poland and the board what had happened much earlier. Instead, she told them Monday afternoon after a board of elections meeting where Miller's lawyer, Brian Shrive, had asked Poland to testify Thursday or file an affidavit.

Poland chose to file an affidavit, saying board of election works do not redact material from documents filed with the board.

"It is clear to me now that I did embarrass the office and the board,'' Krisel said.

Board member Alex Triantafilou, the chair of the Hamilton County Republican Party, fired questions at Krisel for about half an hour, after telling her that he liked and respected her as a board employee.

"My question is whether or not we aided the Pureval campaign by doing something improper,'' Triantafilou said.

The Pureval campaign released the un-redacted checks to the board and the media Tuesday afternoon. A $16,427 check to GBA Strategies, a polling firm, said on the memo line that it was for "poll balance."

At the end of the meeting, Democrat Tim Burke, board of elections chair, made it clear that Krisel would face some kind of discipline for how she acted. But he also made it clear that he considers her a valuable employee and that there is no chance she will lose her job over this.

Burke and Caleb Faux, the other Democrat on the four-member board, will make a decision sometime in the near future about Krisel's discipline.

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