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Feds charge former Harmar police chief with voting improprieties

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Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, 10:18 p.m.
 

Rick Toney, the former Harmar police chief and husband of township Supervisor Kim Toney, is charged in federal court with conspiracy to improperly influence an election.

U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton filed one count of conspiracy against Toney on Wednesday for allegedly soliciting absentee ballot applications from registered voters in April 2009.

In May of that year, he allegedly helped the voters to file the completed ballots with the elections board.

Prosecutors have at least one unidentified witness whom Toney allegedly helped apply for and fill out the ballot in order “to solicit Witness 1's primary election vote,” according to court documents.

In June 2009, Toney allegedly sought testimony from another person to act as a witness in an official proceeding regarding a ballot challenge.

Toney allegedly met with that unidentified witness in September 2012 in an “attempt to hinder the apprehension, prosecution or punishment of another” involved in the federal investigation into the alleged conspiracy.

No other alleged conspirators are named in the court documents filed on Wednesday.

Neither Rick Toney, who has retired from the police force, nor his wife returned a call seeking comment Wednesday evening.

Rick Toney's attorney, Steven C. Townsend, said he couldn't comment on the status of the case.

“For now, all I can tell you is that Mr. Toney is very well-respected in the community and served his community with great honor and integrity. Neither he nor his family deserve this,” Townsend said in an email late Wednesday.

If found guilty, Toney faces a sentence of as many as five years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

2009 primary race

The court documents do not indicate for whom Toney allegedly solicited votes, but absentee ballots cast for his wife and her running mate were challenged shortly after the May 2009 primary election.

Kim Toney, then running for her second term as supervisor, and her ally, political newcomer Jerry Chalmers, won the Democratic Party race for supervisor in part due to absentee ballots.

On Primary Election Night, Democratic opponent Bob Exler appeared to have won one of the Democratic nods along with Toney. Exler's running mate, Evelyn Perrett, came in third and Chalmers was last.

However, once the 137 Democratic and 36 Republican absentee ballots were counted, Toney and Chalmers came out on top.

Each gained more than 50 votes while Exler and Perrett each only gained 3 votes from the absentee ballots, according to comparisons from the unofficial election night totals and the final votes certified by the county.

Exler and Republican candidates Jim DiPalma and Bob Seibert challenged 129 of the absentee ballots, alleging the voters were in Harmar and able to get to the polls on Election Day.

The court tossed 34 ballots but Toney and Chalmers still had enough votes to win.

Toney and Chalmers went on to win the general election that November, defeating DiPalma, who since has been elected as the township's tax collector, and Seibert, a former supervisor.

Exler was elected supervisor in a subsequent race.

Exler on Wednesday said he's heard rumors there was a federal investigation into the absentee ballots, but assumed nothing would come of it after more than five years had passed.

“It was so blatant. Everybody knew,” Exler said of the alleged ballot conspiracy. “We all knew how all these people got elected. But knowing and proving are two different things.”

Exler said he hopes Toney and Chalmers resign.

Chalmers was not available for comment late Wednesday. No charges have been filed against him or Kim Toney.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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