MARIETTA - Chris Forshey, the Independent candidate for Washington County sheriff, withdrew his candidacy Tuesday, citing a new job offer that would be a conflict of interest.
"After much discussion, I have decided to take the job and am required by law to withdraw," Forshey said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Forshey has been offered a position as an investigator for the state Medical Board, confirmed Susan Loe, assistant executive director of program management and operations for the state Medical Board.
"I can confirm we made an offer. I do not off the top of my head know what county he would be working out of," said Loe.
The state Medical Board employs 21 investigators who each serve a multi-county region. They are not considered law enforcement, but are expected to have a law enforcement background, said Loe.
Though he would not confirm his position, Forshey said he had accepted a job offer and there was a possibility for relocation.
Early voting in Ohio began Tuesday so ballots have already been printed with Forshey's name. However, Washington County Board of Elections officials said votes for Forshey will now not be counted.
Forshey's announcement came on the heels of a second councilman from Pataskala, where Forshey served as chief of police, coming forward with criticism of the candidate.
In a letter to The Marietta Times, Pataskala Councilman C. Bernard Brush makes several allegations against Forshey, which Forshey and supporters in Pataskala said were either misrepresented or blown out of proportion.
Last year, Pataskala Councilman Michael Fox wrote a letter saying he "felt compelled" to tell the residents of Washington County that Forshey's time as chief from 2001 to 2010 was "a devastating time in our city's history."
Fox cited alleged botched investigations and poor management.
Newspaper reports from 2009 and 2010, when Forshey retired from the force there, said he was accused by residents and officials of corruption, money mismanagement and was essentially forced out of office.
The most recent letter accused Forshey and his department of accusing and arresting the wrong man in a 2002 murder case.
The letter states that Nick Robinson was released by a Common Pleas judge after nine months of imprisonment.
"Then, Chief Forshey, at the trial of the real killer whose DNA was found underneath Rhonda's (the victim) fingernails, testified for the defense," said Brush in the letter.
But Forshey maintains that his department had the right suspect in the first case.
"I'll go to my grave believing that they got the wrong person for homicide," said Forshey.
Therefore, saying otherwise while under oath during the second suspect's trial would have been perjury, said Forshey.
Brush also brought up a sexual relationship he said occurred between Forshey and Pataskala's finance manager during Forshey's tenure as chief of police.
"He did not recognize a conflict of interest," Brush stated in the letter.
However, Pataskala Mayor Steven Butcher said the relationship was public knowledge and was not a conflict of interest.
"I asked the finance director and the law director ... and I was assured there were no issues there," said Butcher.
Forshey said Tuesday he considered the coucilman's mention of his relationship "defamatory and slanderous" but then said the relationship took place while he was legally separated from his wife, with whom he has now reconciled.
"What I did on my separation time had no bearing on my role as chief of police," he said.
Pataskala City Councilwoman Pat Sagar echoed the sentiment that the relationship was legally and ethically sound.
"It is not like she was going to issue (purchase orders) or anything that made a difference," said Sagar.
Brush's letter is just the most recent string of accusations and insults in a sheriff's race that has been highly contentious.
The letter may have urged Forshey to announce his withdrawal earlier than anticipated.
"I suppose to a certain point, why continue this mess when you don't have to," said Forshey, who had not planned on announcing his exit from the race until Friday.
Forshey said his family was prepared for the challenges before he started his campaign.
"We addressed everything honestly and completely," said Forshey.
Forshey cited his family as his main reason for taking the job.
"My family has made sacrifices for me during my career as a public servant and it is time they get the benefit of the doubt," he said.
Forshey's candidacy withdrawal leaves Sheriff Larry Mincks as an uncontested candidate for the position.
"My objective when I started into this campaign 18 months ago was to win," said Mincks after Tuesday's announcement.
Mincks said he will keep all of his scheduled campaign commitments and intends on standing by his campaign platform of continuing strict drug enforcement efforts.
"We want to continue answering every call we get. We have a strong group of young deputies that I am proud of," said Mincks.
Mincks also thanked his supporters and reassured voters he is glad to be their sheriff and continue the work he has been doing for the past eight years.
Forshey, who has maintained that the sheriff's office has questionable hiring policies, said he is disappointed he cannot continue his campaign, but thinks it has been successful in the sense it has awakened voters' awareness.
"I think that we have raised some eyebrows and that was one of our objectives when we started down this path," he said.