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New Rome's use of data under review
Thursday, January 23, 2003

The State Highway Patrol has launched an investigation of New Rome's use of a confidential state law-enforcement database to investigate a village councilman.

The Dispatch reported yesterday that village Clerk-Treasurer Connie Tucker submitted information obtained from the Law Enforcement Automated Data System to the Franklin County Board of Elections.

Tucker and village Councilwoman Nancy Chapman sought to have Councilman Ed Anthony, a political opponent, stricken from the New Rome voting rolls. Anthony is leading the effort to dissolve the village via a special election on Feb. 4.

Tucker and Chapman submitted the complaint as private citizens, said Guy Reese, director of the Board of Elections. The board denied the request.

New Rome Solicitor John Galasso said the complaint was not an official village action. Tucker declined to comment.

The private use of the LEADS system is prohibited.

"We're going to act on the statements printed in (the Dispatch) article,'' said Staff Lt. James Hamilton of the highway patrol.

"The authorized use of LEADS is for criminal-justice personnel for criminal-justice investigations only,'' he said.

New Rome Police Chief Larry Cunningham said he authorized the LEADS check on Anthony and his family members. The action was "an official village investigation,'' he said, and therefore was legitimate.

"There wasn't any criminal history run, simply a driving record,'' Cunningham said. "It was no big deal.''

The chief has said New Rome police use LEADS to run license-plate checks on thousands of motorists each year.

New Rome takes in more than $300,000 a year from traffic tickets written on the 1,000-foot stretch of W. Broad Street that runs through the village. Most of the proceeds go into the police department budget.

Hamilton said such use of LEADS probably isn't improper.

"If they ran every other plate on every other car, they can do that -- if it's for legitimate criminal-justice purposes,'' he said.

The use of the information in a private complaint would not be legitimate, Hamilton said.

If investigators determine the LEADS system was misused in New Rome, the LEADS Steering Committee will determine how to proceed.

"Sanctions would range from extra training sessions all the way to criminal penalties,'' said committee member Jeanne Miller, chief of police in Reynoldsburg.

An agency found to have misused the system could be denied future use or provided limited access to it, she said.

LEADS is "a valuable resource, and it shouldn't be abused,'' Miller said.

Several instances of misuse have been found throughout the state in the past few years.

Last year, Ohio Department of Taxation employees were found to have used the system to harass people who parked in their reserved parking spaces.

In 2000, a former State Highway Patrol sergeant who guarded former Gov. George V. Voinovich was fined $500 for using LEADS in his side business as a repo man.

In 1999, Delaware Municipal Court Judge Michael C. Hoague was sanctioned for using LEADS to obtain information about a motorist he said he saw driving recklessly.

The system is private because it contains confidential information such as Social Security numbers, Miller said.

"You have literally thousands of law-enforcement officials of all kinds accessing this very valuable resource in total compliance with the law,'' she said.

"But occasionally you will have people doing things they shouldn't do.'' has been awarded ย“2005 Best Web Siteย” by the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists