By. Robert Wang
The owner of about 10 McDonald’s restaurants in Stark County will plead no contest to illegally seeking to influence how his employees voted in November, the owner’s attorney said Wednesday.
Paul Siegfried has agreed to pay the maximum fine of $1,000, said his attorney, Randy Snow. He said Siegfried didn’t know he had violated the law.
Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has recommended that the Ohio Attorney General’s office or Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero charge Siegfried with violating the state’s corrupt practices law. She agreed with the recommendation by Youngstown attorney Rebecca Gerson, whom she appointed to investigate the case. Gerson said the fine money should go to the League of Women Voters.
The 1953 statute prohibits an employer from posting in the business any expressed or implied threat intended to influence its employees’ votes.
In October, Siegfried issued a letter with his employees’ paychecks that said the election of Republicans John Kasich for governor, Rob Portman for U.S. senator and Jim Renacci for U.S. representative would help his business grow.
“If the right people are elected we will be able to continue with raises and benefits at or above our present levels. If others are elected we will not,” Siegfried wrote. “As always who you vote for is completely your personal decision.”
Democrat and attorney Allen Schulman, acting on behalf of at least one McDonald’s employee, filed a complaint against Siegfried with local prosecutors.
Siegfried apologized to his employees in another letter, saying he had committed an “error of judgment.”
John Kurtzman, the chief counsel for Ferrero, said he had no information on how Ferrero would proceed with the case. Ted Hart, a spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General’s office, said the office wouldn’t decide how to proceed until Republican Mike DeWine is sworn in as attorney general Sunday.
Schulman said Siegfried should be fined $1,000 for each of his 450 employees.
“Intimidating the employees to vote in a certain way, that’s so fundamentally anti-American,” said Schulman. He said he still would have filed the complaint if Siegfried had been a Democrat.
Gerson argued that Siegfried violated the law once by writing one letter.