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Lucas Co. GOP files challenge on rejections

Elections board issue goes to state top court

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Jon Stainbrook

THE BLADE
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The Lucas County Republican Party has made good on its threat to challenge Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted over his rejection of nominees for the Lucas County Board of Elections.

The petition filed Thursday with the Ohio Supreme Court says that Mr. Husted, also a Republican, rejected nominees Kelly Bensman and Ben Roberts based on false accusations that they contributed to the dysfunction that has plagued the board of elections in recent years.

“The Secretary has rejected the LCRP Executive Committee recommendations of Ms. Bensman and Mr. Roberts on the improper basis of mere suspicion, unsubstantiated allegations, and personal opinions, without a shred of verified factual evidence that would demonstrate that either of them are not competent,” the complaint charges.

The Lucas County Republican Party last month nominated the two to replace Mr. Stainbrook and fellow Republican Tony DeGidio who had been removed from the board by Mr. Husted on June 5, along with Democrat Ron Rothenbuhler. The three were blamed for “a culture of dysfunction” on the board and for failure to comply with laws requiring regular monthly meetings and referral of late-filed campaign finance reports to the Ohio Elections Commission.

Mr. Husted said Ms. Bensman and Mr. Roberts were tied in with “the problems of the past,” and rejected their nominations. Rather than submit two new names, the Lucas County party opted last week to seek a writ of mandamus from the Ohio Supreme Court.

Matt McClellan, a spokesman for Mr. Husted, said, “The two people recommended are clearly connected to previous problems at the Lucas County Board of Elections. Ben Roberts said himself he was not up to the job when he resigned from the board, and it was clear from past reviews of the board, including by the transparency committee, that Kelly Bensman was very much a part of the culture of past failures.”

Mr. Roberts, 45, a management consultant from Maumee, and Ms. Bensman, 37, an environmental consultant from Toledo, have been involved in the sometimes-heated policy and partisan disputes revolving around the elections board as close allies of Mr. Stainbrook.

Mr. Roberts was director of the board in 2011. He resigned over what he called a “caustic” work environment. Ms. Bensman has been a party volunteer.

The petition says Ms. Bensman has expertise in regulatory compliance, data assessment, and quality management programs, and that she was appointed last year by Gov. John Kasich to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Water Advisory Council.

It says Mr. Roberts has a masters in business administration from the University of Michigan and has held “numerous leadership positions within various business organizations.”

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419--724-6058 or an Twitter @TomFTroy.

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