COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – What appears to be a political letter could actually amount to criminal charges. 2 NEW Investigates has found out that for the last four months the Ohio State Highway Patrol has been investigating a letter that appears to be signed by Representative Jim Butler, (R) District 41. Since it appears to be from a state office in Columbus it will be up to the Franklin County Prosecutor to decide where it is delivered next.
The letter is dated “February 19th.” 2 NEWS Investigates blocked handwritten notes that were not on the original and the home address of the recipient, Barb Cole. Cole ran against incumbent State Representative Cliff Rosenberger, (R) District 91, and lost in the Republican Primary in May.
Cole told 2 NEWS Investigates, “When I received the letter it was such a complimentary letter that I was very flattered and very pleased, and what I did was I went to the website to see who this person was because I was not familiar with him.”
The letter appears to be signed by Representative Butler who represents Oakwood, Centerville, Kettering and parts of Riverside and Dayton. The letter reads like an endorsement with sentences like, “I am here to offer my full support of your future run and the best of luck in the upcoming Primary.”
Cole says she reached out to Representative Butler’s office to thank him. Problem is Butler says he knew nothing about the letter.
“About 20 minutes later I got a call from his legislative aide saying that he had not written the letter so that it was a big shock to everyone and they said could you please email the letter, and I said of course I can,” Cole told 2 NEWS Investigates.
Cole says state investigators picked up the letter the next day.
Butler sent the following statement,”In late February, I was made aware of potential criminal activity, specifically a forged letter under my name that did not come from my office. I alerted law enforcement, including the State Highway Patrol. Because it is still an ongoing investigation, I cannot comment further.”
There is no named suspect or suspects, but to understand what might be behind this, you need to know that right now there is a battle going on for the position of Speaker of the House and the two top contenders are Jim Butler and Cliff Rosenberger.
Cole added, “For me the question is to what lengths are we willing to go to win elections and what laws can be broken in elections without fear of prosecution. Can we expect integrity and honesty from our officials? Obviously the letter was intended to embarrass Representative Butler and me.”
Cole said she held off saying anything until now because that’s what investigators asked her to do. 2 NEWS Investigates tried to reach Cliff Rosenberger by phone and email and has yet to hear back.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said he has asked the state highway patrol some followup questions and when he gets his answers he will decide the next step. Someone could be charged with felony forgery.