CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Fresh off a major shake-up of his campaign staff, Congressional candidate Aftab Pureval and his now former campaign manager testified Thursday before the Ohio Elections Commission.
Pureval and Sarah Topy were asked under oath to explain allegations he violated campaign finance laws.
Pureval took the stand just before noon, and Topy testified this morning.
The Democrat is accused in a complaint filed with the elections commission of using money from his campaign for Hamilton County Clerk of Courts for the federal race to pay for polling as he tries to unseat longtime incumbent Steve Chabot.
The congressional race is among many around the nation being closely watched as Election Day approaches Tuesday.
Pureval’s campaign expenses under scrutiny include $16,427.79 for polling, $360 for pictures of his congressional campaign launch and more money in travel costs, records show.
A check for the polling is part of the case - both versions of it, that is.
It was recently revealed an employee at the Hamilton County Board of Elections blacked out the reason for the campaign expense at the request of Pureval’s now-former campaign manager.
The employee confessed and lost two weeks vacation as a result, board of elections officials have said.
The Ohio Elections Commission has dismissed some of his complaint earlier this month, contending Pureval did not violate state elections laws for collecting campaign contributions.
But the board decided to hold Thursdays' hearing on allegations the money was improperly spent.
It’s been a rough week for Pureval’s campaign.
Topy’s resignation came along with the firing of two campaign employees, ones Pureval has not explained.
His campaign released a statement announcing the departures Wednesday after “new information” came to light.
“Our campaign holds itself to the highest standards of professionalism and accountability. Yesterday I learned new information that led me to believe that members of my staff may not have lived up to that standard. We have dismissed those staff members. I do not want this issue to be a distraction in the final days, and therefore have accepted the resignation of my campaign manager.
While the actions of a few are inappropriate, I am proud of the campaign we’ve run and the issues we’re fighting for. As a whole, my team is filled with hard-working, dedicated staff and volunteers who are committed to our community and hold themselves to the highest standards. I am confident that in the final days our team is working hard, focusing on the issues that matter to the people of Ohio’s 1st Congressional District and we will win on Tuesday."
On Tuesday, Republicans held a news conference to announce a man they claim was working on behalf of Democrat Aftab Pureval’s congressional campaign infiltrated Chabot’s campaign and accessed a sensitive voter database while posing as a volunteer.
Ohio Republican Party chairman Jane Timken and Hamilton County Republican chairman Alex Triantafilou called on a man named Jack Dohrenwend to come forward and disclose what he knows.
The same day, the campaign manager of Grass Roots for the Steve Chabot for Congress Campaign, Randy Chenault, filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission against Pureval and Dohrenwend.
His complaint accuses them of violating election law by having Dohrenwend infiltrate the campaign “to secretly obtain and report information about Chabot campaign to Aftab campaign and to impede the conduct of the Chabot campaign by obtaining access to the campaign’s canvassing data and filing false and fraudulent voter contact information.”
Specifically, the complaint alleges Dohrenwend “infiltrated the Chabot campaign and fraudulently obtained access to the Chabot campaign’s canvassing data on September 23, 2018 and filed falsified information on the Chabot campaign’s database.”
Pureval’s poll numbers were sliding as Chabot’s odds to win increased, the complaint notes.
“The Aftab Pureval campaign was facing disaster if they could not reverse the trajectory of their campaign quickly," it states.
Maps provided by the Chabot campaign Tuesday to our news partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer show information was put into the Republican’s campaign database from a house on Ruther Avenue in Clifton. That house is owned by John “Jack” Dohrenwend, 22, according to Hamilton County property records.
Pureval has said Dohrenwend was a volunteer on the Democrat’s campaign but he was not directed to infiltrate Chabot’s campaign.
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