2012-04-07 / News

Commissioner sentenced, resigns

By Scott Rawdon

NEW LEXINGTON – Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Wednesday that Perry County Commissioner Lonnie Wood will serve jail time for restraining, kissing, and groping a county employee against her wishes on Oct. 19, 2010. As part of Wednesday’s plea agreement, Wood resigned his seat as a Perry County Commissioner and agreed not to hold or seek a position in public office for 10 years.

A related civil case against all Perry County Commissioners and the Perry County Emergency Management Agency director was dismissed.

According to a press release from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Wednesday in Perry County Court, Wood pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors – assault and unlawful restraint – in front of visiting Judge William Joseph, a Zanesville Municipal Court Judge. Judge Joseph found Wood guilty and sentenced him to 10 days in jail, $1,250 in fines (plus court costs), and 100 hours of community service within 90 days. Wood will be in the custody of the Perry County Sheriff when he begins his 10-day jail sentence April 23.

Wood’s victim, former Perry County Emergency Management Agency administrative assistant Angel Baughman, was in court and was pleased with the outcome, after giving a victim impact statement in front of her attacker.

Assistant Attorney General Matt Donahue served as the special prosecutor and the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) investigated this case.

“No one is above the law and that includes public officials,” said DeWine. “I am glad our office could help bring some justice to the victim in this case.”

Wood was also ordered to undergo a psychological assessment and have no contact with the victim.

Previously, Baughman filed a complaint and jury demand in Perry County Common Pleas Court stating that Wood on or about Oct. 19, 2010 entered her office and forcibly groped her “by exposing her breasts, grabbing her from behind, and forcibly kissing her,” according to the complaint. She said Wood’s conduct was “outrageous and shocking, and done with the intention of harassing, intimidating, and harming” Baughman. She said the experience was traumatic and caused her to seek counseling and miss work hours. Baughman said she sustained damages from the incident in excess of $25,000.

A related civil case against Wood, Perry County Commissioners Fred Shriner and Ed Keister, and Perry County Emergency Management Agency Director Rita Spicer was dismissed.

According to the civil case complaint, Baughman said her boss, Emergency Management Agency Director Rita Spicer, knew of Wood’s actions, witnessed Baughman’s repeated harassment “on a daily, if not weekly basis” and did nothing to protect her. Baughman said Wood made sexual jokes, advances, and unwelcome contact, which eventually led to the assault incident October 2010. The complaint states that Shriner and Keister also knew of the harassment leading to the assault and did nothing to stop it.

Additionally, Baughman said Spicer wrongfully terminated her position on or about July 6 while Baughman was on “indefinite medical leave” seeking counseling for the trauma the sexual assault incident caused her. Baughman stated that prior to being terminated, she reported Wood’s actions to Spicer, who, according to the complaint, called Baughman a “liar,” treated her rudely, ignored concerns about her own safety while working alone in the office, then fired her as a result of her complaints against Wood. The complaint states that the wrongful termination caused damaged to her in excess of $25,000.

The county’s insurance company defended the civil suit against all the commissioners and Spicer, and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office reviewed the criminal allegations against Wood.

“The civil case has been dismissed without any fault on the part of the board of commissioners or the county EMA being found,” said attorney Jeffrey A. Stankunas of Isaac, Brant, Ledman & Teetor, LLP, who represented the county in the civil case. “The case was resolved to the satisfaction of all the parties and no taxpayer dollars were paid to (Baughman or her husband),” he said.

Stankunas said Perry County is a member of a risk sharing pool that provides defense and indemnification to certain civil cases. The pool did pay money to save on the time and expense of continuing to pay the defense (i.e. his firm’s fees) of the litigation.

“All I can do is confirm that Mrs. Baughman stands by the allegations set forth in the complaint and that her lawsuit against all of the defendants has been settled for a figure that the parties agreed would not be disclosed,” said attorney D. Joe Griffith, representing Baughman in the civil case.

“Mrs. Baughman is now employed by the Perry County Sheriff’s office and she will make a statement at Mr. Wood’s sentencing hearing (Wednesday) about his conduct,” he said.

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