LIMA — Controversies of varying degrees surround three of the four candidates who will square off in May to become the next mayor of Lima.
Mayoral hopeful and former city neighborhood specialist Autumn Swanson on Wednesday entered a written plea of not guilty in Lima Municipal Court to charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and failure to maintain reasonable control following her arrest early Sunday morning. She has requested a pretrial and waived her right to a speedy trial.
Meanwhile, The Lima News has learned that candidate Joshua Hayes has his own legal woes that include a 2017 felony arrest in Minnesota for possessing marijuana. That conviction reportedly will not affect his eligibility to seek office in Lima.
And a hearing has been scheduled for March 4 after a private citizen filed a protest questioning the residency of candidate Elizabeth Hardesty.
Kathy Meyer, director of the Allen County Board of Elections, on Wednesday said a protest surrounding Hardesty’s residency was filed by city resident Bart Mills. Meyer said a “quasi-judicial hearing” has been scheduled for 9:45 a.m. on March 4 at the board office. Mills and Hardesty have been invited to attend.
In addition to Swanson, Hayes and Hardesty, the remaining mayoral candidate whose name will appear on the May ballot is Sharetta Smith. The top two vote-getters will run against each other in November.
Hayes has felony conviction
According to information on the Ohio State Chiropractic Board website, Hayes — a licensed chiropractor — was arrested in Minnesota in 2017 on a fifth-degree felony charge of “possession of a not small amount marijuana.” He pleaded guilty to the charge and was convicted.
The state chiropractic board placed Hayes on probation for a period of five years, through Nov. 13, 2022, following that incident. The charge is a violation of Ohio Revised Code Section 4734.31 (C)(1), which authorizes the Ohio chiropractic board to take action “… for any of the following reasons: A plea of guilty to, a judicial finding of guilt of or a judicial finding of eligibility for intervention in lieu of conviction for, a felony in any jurisdiction ….”
Hayes agreed to the five-year probation period, waiving his right to be formally charged by the board for the felony conviction that took place on Nov. 13, 2017, in the Otter Tail District Court in Minnesota.
The report detailing the decision noted that Hayes “has been cooperative” during the proceedings and that he has “no prior disciplinary action with the board.”
City Law Director Tony Geiger said neither the city’s charter nor Ohio law would prohibit Hayes from running for the mayor’s seat based on his felony conviction.
Hayes was also arrested in February 2020 in Allen County on a charge of illegal use/possession of marijuana drug paraphernalia, but the case was dismissed at the recommendation of prosecutors. In January 2019, Hayes was arrested for driving under suspension. He pleaded no contest, was found guilty and was fined $185.
Swanson refused sobriety test
Swanson, 41, was arrested by Allen County Sheriff’s Office deputies around 1 a.m. Sunday after her vehicle was discovered against a guard rail fence on the Robb Avenue overpass near Central Avenue. According to a report from the Allen County Sheriff’s Office, Swanson was traveling westbound on Robb Avenue near Central Avenue when her vehicle ran off the roadway and struck the fence.
Police reports show Deputy Aaron Smith arrived at the scene and determined Swanson was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. She refused to take a sobriety test and was arrested for OVI. Swanson further refused to give a location to which she could be transported following her arrest and was ultimately taken to the county jail for processing. Swanson’s 2012 Kia Sorento showed damage to the passenger side, according to police reports.
Her failure to submit to a sobriety test will result in a one-year drivers’ license suspension.
Swanson was booked into the Allen County jail and was released 90 minutes later after posting a $2,000 bond. Her driver’s license was also suspended.
Paul Lagemann, Swanson’s campaign spokesman, in a prepared statement issued Monday said the campaign was “concerned with the circumstances of the incident.” The statement alleges that Swanson simply pulled off the side of the road to use her phone, at which time her vehicle became stuck in the snow.
“Ms. Swanson reached out to friends for assistance in extricating her car. While she awaited assistance, an officer stopped to investigate the situation and requested various sobriety tests. When Ms. Swanson requested that she be allowed to wait for her friends to arrive to assist her, she was taken into custody by the officer,” the prepared statement continued. “While the circumstances of this incident are pending legal review, the Swanson campaign stands firmly behind Autumn Swanson’s candidacy for mayor and will provide more information as we review with legal counsel.”
In December 2018, Swanson was arrested on an intoxication charge. She pleaded no contest and was found guilty and was fined $148.
… pleads not guilty to charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated