MEIGS COUNTY — A question has been raised over a potential Ohio Revised Code violation regarding paperwork filed by a commissioner candidate.
A letter was recently mailed to candidate Moe Hajivandi by Meigs County Prosecutor James K. Stanley regarding what Stanley called “an apparent violation of the requirements set forth in ORC 3513.271.”
That section of the Ohio Revised Code deals with the requirements of a candidate who has changed his or her name in the past five years.
ORC 3513.271 states, “If any person desiring to become a candidate for public office has had a change of name within five years immediately preceding the filing of his statement of candidacy, both his statement of candidacy and nominating petition must contain, immediately following the person’s present name, the person’s former names.”
The letter states, and Hajivandi confirms, that on December 21, 2016, he legally changed his name from Mohammad Reza Hajivandi to Moe Hajivandi.
Hajivandi explained to the Sentinel, in a phone interview on Wednesday, that 30 years ago he came to know the Lord Jesus Christ and had always wanted to change his name as Mohammad has an affiliation with Islam. He made the decision to change to the name which people had always called him, “Moe.”
In February of this year, Hajivandi gave the judgement entry regarding the name change to the Board of Elections in order to update his voter registration to his new legal name.
When Hajivandi filed his declaration to be a write-in candidate on Aug. 27, 2018, he did not list his former name, only his current name.
Stanley’s letter states, “As ORC 3513.271 clearly applies to any person desiring to become a candidate for public office, I interpret this code section to apply to individuals filing declarations as well as statements of candidacy and nominating petitions.”
Hajivandi said that he, as well as his legal counsel, do not interpret the ORC section in that way, rather, that since Hajivandi did not file either a statement of candidacy or nominating petition this section does not apply to his candidacy. Rather, he filed a declaration to run as a write-in candidate.
There is no action which can be taken regarding the matter at this time, as the outcome of the election is still pending, stated Stanley. The letter to Hajivandi from Stanley was simply to inform him of the potential legal situation.
As for the possible outcomes of the alleged violation, the ORC states, “Any person who has been elected under the person’s changed name, without submission of the person’s former name, shall be immediately suspended from the office and the office declared vacated, and shall be liable to the state for any salary the person has received while holding such office.”
Stanley stated that under Ohio law, should Hajivandi be elected as county commissioner he would be required to file action to have Hajivandi suspended from the office and the office vacated.
Hajivandi said his legal counsel is preparing a response to Stanley’s letter and will be in contact with the Prosecutor.
As for the campaign with just a few weeks to go until Election Day, Hajivandi said that the situation will have “no impact on the election with the campaign going as strong or stronger” than it has been.
Hajivandi said he is trying to run an ethical and legal campaign and had no hidden agenda in not listing his former name.
He said that his goal, win or lose, is to let democracy reign in Meigs County.
This is not the first issue which Hajivandi has faced regarding his candidacy.
The Board of Elections approved Hajivandi’s write-in candidacy in September following a legal opinion from Stanley regarding if Hajivandi had “timely withdrawn” his original petition as an independent candidate in order to be eligble as a write-in candidate.
Hajivandi is running against incumbent Tim Ihle for the commissioner seat.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.