Meagan Pandey, a Democratic candidate for Hilliard City Council, called for Republican Stephanie Kunze to withdraw from the race during a brief address to city council Monday night.

Meagan Pandey, a Democratic candidate for Hilliard City Council, called for Republican Stephanie Kunze to withdraw from the race during a brief address to city council Monday night.

During her 3-minute speech, Pandey, a political newcomer and the lone Democrat on the November general election ballot, questioned Kunze's integrity and called for her to end her campaign.

"As someone who has been involved as a casual observer in the political process, as well as a participant in the community interest of both Democrats and Republicans, I know that our political leaders, national, state and especially local must be held to a certain level of integrity," Pandey said. "Recently, there have been several press reports that are deeply concerning. According to local papers, a candidate for Hilliard City Council has been the subject of articles regarding her eligibility to run for office. This person was an employee of our public school system during her recent primary. Having come under pressure for this obvious conflict of interest, she has recently resigned her position in an effort to remain a candidate for city council."

Pandey alleged that Kunze's candidacy violated the Hatch Act.

"Beyond ethical concerns, it is my understanding that these actions violate the Hatch Act, something that is state law and was adopted by Hilliard in the city charter," she said. "The Hatch Act specifically prohibits public employees from becoming involved in circulating petitions, as well as becoming a partisan candidate for public office."

Pandey said Kunze's resignation from her position as a secretary at Norwich Elementary School does not solve the problem.

"Simply resigning your job after violating a law that is directly related to your specific situation is inadequate," Pandey said. "The law is clear that if one is prohibited from engaging in partisan activities while a public employee, then that person should be barred from seeking that office. Resigning after the fact and claiming ignorance is not resolution. Good faith in our elected officials matters, and such behavior surely does not promote good faith. Our community is in desperate need of leaders who care about the trust that they build or sometimes destroy when they serve as elected officials."

At the conclusion of her remarks, council president Brett Sciotto chastised Pandey for making a political statement during a council meeting.

"Ms. Pandey, I would hope that since you aspire to this office that you know that this body is about governance," Sciotto said. "This is a body of leadership of the city of Hilliard and not a location for political speeches. So you've said your word."

James Lang, a political consultant representing the Hilliard Democrats organization, said he thought Sciotto crossed a line by criticizing Pandey after she addressed council.

"We are proud that Meagan Pandey stood before council and represented the working- and middle-class residents of Hilliard by voicing her concerns regarding the recent legal and ethical questions surrounding Stephanie Kunze," Lang said. "It is unfortunate that Mr. Sciotto attempted to turn the legitimate concerns of countless Hilliard residents into an opportunity to once again play partisan games at the expense of the people when he told Mrs. Pandey that the open public-forum portion of the meeting was not reserved for public concerns and comments."

He continued: "We believe open and honest government requires the public to have the opportunity to voice their concerns, and we believe the citizens of Hilliard expect better from our elected officials."

Lang said council members haven't heard the last from local Democrats.

"We will continue to demand that Mrs. Kunze withdraw from the race," he said. "In addition, we would also like to remind Mrs. Fox (city law director Pam Fox) and the council of their community obligations and demand that they put aside their partisan focus by insisting Mrs. Kunze withdraw. Again, the people of Hilliard expect better."