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Councilwoman accused of fraud

An Ironton City Council candidate is being investigated over use of absentee ballots.

Thursday, October 21, 1999

An Ironton City Council candidate is being investigated over use of absentee ballots.

The Lawrence County Board of Elections received a complaint last week against current council member and candidate Mary Lee Kennedy, Lawrence County prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr. said.

Without receiving official notification of the allegations’ details, Mrs. Kennedy said she could not be certain what the specifics of the investigation will be – only that there isn’t anything to find.

"I just haven’t done anything wrong, and with the timing, it just seems like someone might be trying to set me up," she said. "But it’s not something that will cause me to lose focus on the election."

The election board gathered information from the complaining party and sent a report to the prosecutor’s office on Monday, Collier said.

"We looked into it last week and now we’re finished with it," election board director Mary Wipert said.

Ms. Wipert would not comment on specific allegations contained in the complaint.

Because Mrs. Kennedy has a part-time job in tax collections at the prosecutor’s office, Collier notified Lawrence County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Walton, who appointed Gallia County prosecutor Brent Saunders as special prosecutor to avoid any conflicts, Collier said.

"He will investigate the case and determine whether or not charges are appropriate," he said.

Meanwhile, Kennedy has been suspended from her job pending the outcome of that investigation, Collier said.

"Hopefully, she will be exonerated, but it’s the only thing I could do having someone not associated with my office investigating," he said. "That’s the stage we’re in right now."

Collier said he could not comment on specific allegations, except that they concerned absentee ballots.

The allegations came as a complete surprise to Mrs. Kennedy, who said she had heard nothing of them until she was informed by the prosecutor’s office about her suspension.

"Other than what came out in the papers and getting told I could not come back into work until this is resolved, I didn’t know a thing about it," she said. "I’m very familiar with the election laws, and I know what I can do and what I can’t do. I also know I haven’t done anything wrong."

Instead, Mrs. Kennedy said she is only guilty of honest, hard work.

"The only thing I did was work very hard," Mrs. Kennedy said. "I’ve been door-to-door and I’ve done everything the right way, and I’m going to continue to work hard. This won’t change that fact."

Mrs. Kennedy said she has far too much work to finish as a councilwoman to stop campaigning.

"I don’t feel I have any reason to hang my head down or to quit," she said. "I have so many people who depend on me in this city that quitting just isn’t an option."

Although displeased with the allegations which she said are groundless, Mrs. Kennedy said because she is in politics, she has learned to deal with incidents like this.

"You just have to develop a pretty hard shell, which is difficult for me to do sometimes, but it’s necessary," she said. "You still have to go out there every day – you’ve got a job to do and you have to give it all you’ve got. And that’s what I’ve done and what I will continue to do."