State of Ohio Probes Restaurant Owner Payroll Stuffer

November 3, 2010 ( – Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has kicked off an investigation of the owner of McDonald's franchises in Stark County for including GOP campaign materials with workers' paychecks.

A Cleveland Plain Dealer blog said the paychecks included a note saying, “If the right people are elected, we will be able to continue with raises and benefits at or above our present levels. If others are elected, we will not.”

That letter – which endorsed John Kasich for governor, Rob Portman as a Senate candidate, and Jim Renacci as a congressional candidate – was distributed by franchise owner Paul Siegfried on McDonald’s stationery to employees at several Canton locations. One unnamed worker forwarded it to a Canton attorney, who in turn asked Canton Law Director Joe Martuccio to investigate, according to the blog.

Siegfried issued a written apology, which did not move Brunner to halt her investigation, according to Kevin Kidder, a spokesman for Brunner.  “It’s a serious matter,” Kidder told the newspaper. “Voter intimidation is involved. It’s a form of voter fraud. This requires a strong response. Brunner is required by law to investigate further.”

In a statement, Brunner said she has appointed attorney Rebecca M. Gerson of Youngstown to open a criminal investigation.

Siegfried’s apology also said that employees have a right to vote for whomever they choose, according to the Plain Dealer. “Distributing this communication was an error of judgment on my part,” Siegfried said in a statement. “Please know that it was never my intention to offend anyone. For those I have offended, I sincerely apologize.”

McDonald’s USA also issued a statement Friday that its company respects its employees’ diverse opinions and “had no knowledge of this material being distributed” by Siegfried.