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Published: 12/3/2002

TPS levy faces lawsuit threat

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

The Lucas County Board of Elections has certified the results of the Nov. 5 election, ratifying Republican Maggie Thurber's win over longtime county Commissioner Sandy Isenberg and the passage of a bond levy to rebuild most of the structures in the Toledo Public Schools district.

But the school levy, which was hotly contested by a citizens group and won by just 1,397 votes out of nearly 59,000 cast, faces a new challenge. Activist Rick Van Landingham said he plans to file a lawsuit contesting the outcome of the school vote. He charged yesterday that teachers and school officials wrongly campaigned for the levy close to voting machines at many of the 39 schools that hosted voting precincts on Election Day.

“The bottom line is, they shouldn't have held the election at the schools with the schools open,” he said, “particularly when [the voting machines] are in the hallway or the lobby. I saw people walking right through the lobby, right between the voting machines. The whole idea is that polling places are supposed to be sacrosanct.”

Attending the board's meeting yesterday, Mr. Van Landingham offered members photographs of reader boards at schools, including East Toledo Junior High School and Birmingham Elementary, that promoted the levy. Other photos showed pro-levy campaign signs sitting in schools, some- times just a few feet from voting machines.

“The question that ends up being raised is not whether these things were illegal; they were. The question is, what is the remedy?” he said. “In the future schools ought to be closed if a school issue is on the ballot. The second remedy is that the violations were so egregious that the results should be set aside, and that is what I am seeking.”

Voters in the Toledo district cast ballots in 39 of its schools, said Larry Loutzenhiser, elections superintendent.

Mr. Van Landingham said he would file the lawsuit next week.

The elections board asked board Director Joe Kidd to seek legal advice on how to proceed in the matter.

“We need to get some legal opinion to find out what our legal responsibility is,” Mr. Kidd said. “The problem is that this letter, these complaints, were brought to us at the very last moment. It's kind of late now to raise these issues.”

Mr. Van Landingham outlined his complaints in a letter dated Nov. 27, more than three weeks after the election. During the campaign, Van Landingham was caught by Toledo police vandalizing Issue 2 signs. Police said he was painting “no” over the campaign slogans. Because the signs were on a public right-of-way, no charges could be sought, police said.

The 4.99-mill school levy would raise $186 million for the massive construction project. The state will contribute an estimated $614 million.

Two other ballot measures - a local-option liquor measure in Toledo's Ward 18 Precinct C, and a joint economic development zone involving Toledo, Maumee, and Monclova Township - were close enough to require automatic recounts. Those recounts will take place Monday. Board members agreed to meet later that day to certify those measures.

Issue 23, the liquor permit measure, which would allow AJ's Carryout store at 868 East Broadway to sell alcoholic beverages on Sunday, was passing by one vote, 129 to 128. Issue 25, the joint economic zone, was going down to defeat, with 1,453 in favor and 1,456 against.



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