Tuesday, May 23, 2000

Councilman faces vote fraud charges

By Janice Morse and David Eck
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jon Saylor (right) with his attorney, Peter Swenty.
(Dick Swaim photo)
| ZOOM |
        HAMILTON — Usually confident and wearing a suit and tie at Fairfield City Council meetings, Councilman Jon Saylor on Monday appeared pale as he stood in an orange jail-issue jumpsuit before a Butler County judge.

        Mr. Saylor, 27, nervously bit his lip as he faced a 68-count indictment in a voter-fraud scandal — one that other Fairfield officials fear will leave an indelible black mark on the city.

        “Fairfield's been known as the squeaky-clean, conservative town — and everything's been turned upside-down,” said Councilman Jeff Holtegel, the first to call for Mr. Saylor's resignation as the scandal broke in late February.

        “The scary thing is that Fairfield might be remembered as "the town in Southwest Ohio where that guy almost got away with voter fraud.' It's on everyone's minds, and it's going to be for a long time.”

        State officials have said cases of extensive voter fraud are rare in modern Ohio politics.

        Mr. Saylor, who surrendered Monday morning at the sheriff's headquarters, is accused of creating sham voters and falsifying absentee ballots and other documents to boost his vote tally in the November general election.

        He defeated Michael D. Snyder, 820-678, to win the First Ward council seat.

        Mr. Saylor's bond was set at $150,000. Attorney Peter Swenty said Mr. Saylor's parents, Bob and Mary Saylor, indicated they would put up their home to secure a bond for his release.

        Mrs. Saylor tried to hug her son as he was brought into the courtroom of Judge Keith Spaeth, but a sheriff's deputy stopped her.

        The parents, holding each other tightly, brushed past reporters and hustled out of the courtroom after their son was handcuffed and taken back to jail, where he was still being held Monday evening.

        Mr. Saylor did not attend Monday's City Council meeting, and his fellow council members refused to excuse

        the absence. Under the city charter, a councilman may be removed from office if he misses three consecutive announced council meetings, officials said.

        Mr. Saylor also could be removed via a recall election, but the charter doesn't allow such an effort to begin until he has served six months in office.

        If Mr. Saylor does make bail, Judge Spaeth ordered that he not travel outside of Ohio, stay in contact with his attorney and make all court appearances.

        Mr. Swenty said his client is not a flight risk. Mr. Saylor is aware of the seriousness of the charges, Mr. Swenty said, adding, “I do not believe it was a fair characterization (to say) that Mr. Saylor eluded anybody.”

        Sheriff's deputies had been looking for Mr. Saylor since the indictment against him was issued Friday.

        His girlfriend, Cynthia K. McCloud, also was indicted on three counts: false registration, inducing illegal voting and an absentee voter's ballot violation. She is not in custody.

        Butler County Detective Sgt. Mike Craft said deputies had difficulty finding Mr. Saylor when they served him with subpoenas compelling his appearance before the Butler County Board of Elections, which investigated the allegations earlier this year. Their findings went to the county prosecutor's office, which then presented the case to a grand jury.

        Citizens are embarrassed by the scandal, Mr. Holtegel said. “They don't understand why he's continuing on. They think he should at least save some face and step aside, and take this out of the spotlight.”

        Meanwhile, additional allegations about Mr. Saylor are under consideration by the Ohio Elections Commission.

        The commission is scheduled to conduct a hearing in Columbus on June 8 regarding alleged false statements on Mr. Saylor's campaign literature.

        In a notarized complaint filed with the commission in January, Mr. Snyder alleges that Mr. Saylor gave inaccurate information about his employment and business background.


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