Tuesday, June 06, 2000

Clerk accused of campaign violation

Fund-raising letter lists office phone

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Kenton County Circuit Court Clerk Mary Ann Woltenberg has been accused of using her courthouse office to run part of her re-election campaign.

        Villa Hills Republican Steve Kramer, who is challenging Mrs. Woltenberg in the November election, has filed a complaint against her with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance in Frankfort, the agency that oversees state campaign finance laws.

        In his complaint, Mr. Kramer alleges that Mrs. Woltenberg, a Fort Wright Democrat, is using phones in her courthouse office to run for re-election to the office she has held since 1992.

        Mrs. Woltenberg said Monday she had not seen the complaint but publishing her office phone number was unintentional.

        Mr. Kramer filed the complaint after seeing a piece of Mrs. Woltenberg's campaign material that was drafted on her behalf by about 175 lawyers who are supporting her.

        The letter was sent to other lawyers and asked them to vote for Mrs. Woltenberg and make a financial contribution to her campaign.

        It then says Mrs. Wolten berg can be contacted by phone and it lists the number of her courthouse phone in Covington.

        Under state law candidates for office cannot use phones in their taxpayer-funded offices to campaign.

        “If I have to stop doing it I certainly will,” Mrs. Woltenberg said. “I have my e-mail address in (the letter), and it's my home e-mail address.”

        Officials in the Registry of Election Finance were not available for comment Monday. According to state statutes Mrs. Woltenberg could be ordered to stop using her office phone number in campaign materials and fined up to $5,000, though fines are rare in such cases.

        Mr. Kramer said he filed the complaint because Mrs. Woltenberg should not be using her government office to run for re-election.

        “She's abusing the system, and if she's on the phone campaigning or trying to raise money then she isn't working for the people of Kenton County,” Mr. Kramer said.

        Mrs. Woltenberg said Mr. Kramer, 24, filed the complaint to use it in his political campaign.

        “He's nit-picking because he is inexperienced and not qualified to hold this office,” Mrs. Woltenberg said. “He doesn't have any issues to run on. This is all he's got.”

        Mr. Kramer is a clerk in office of Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson. He pointed out that he uses his cell phone to make or return any campaign-related calls.

        “I work in the courthouse also, but I play by the rules,” he said.

        The circuit clerk's office oversees the basic administration of the court system and handles all the paperwork for Circuit and District courts.


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