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Over the objections of the sitting Lucas County Republican Party chairman, the Lucas County Board of Elections yesterday voted to forward to the state Republican Party the competing claims to leadership of the local party.
The vote triggered a legal filing from incumbent Chairman Jon Stainbrook, who asked the Lucas County Common Pleas Court for a temporary restraining order.
The court will be asked to prevent the board and the Republican State Central Committee "from acting in any capacity that furthers the illegal removal of central committee members from the Lucas County Republican Party as there is no statutory basis for it," according to a statement from Stainbrook attorney Tony DeGidio. A hearing was scheduled for tomorrow before Judge Charles Doneghy.
The elections board voted 4-0 to approve the rival lists of officers and executive and central committee members provided by Mr. Stainbrook and Toledo lawyer Jeff Simpson, who claims he ousted Mr. Stainbrook in a meeting of the GOP central committee Dec. 21.
The Ohio Republican Party has 30 days to review the lists and decide the rightful GOP leader.
"I'm very happy that the motion carried, and that it has been certified to the state Republican Party central committee and I look forward to their decision," Mr. Simpson said after the vote.
He said the central committee has lost confidence in Mr. Stainbrook and central committee Chairman Meghan Gallagher and wants new leadership in place for the statewide elections this year.
Mr. Stainbrook contends the takeover is aimed at keeping him from taking a seat on the Lucas County Board of Elections.
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Both seats are held by Republicans who supported Mr. Simpson's bid for chairman, Lynn Olman and Patrick Kriner.
Mr. Olman's term expires Feb. 28, and Mr. Stainbrook has been recommended by his executive committee to replace him.
He charged that the elections board acted illegally in recognizing Mr. Simpson's claim to be chairman and in overlooking shortcomings in documents filed by Mr. Simpson and his central committee chairman, Paul Hoag.
"It's no surprise with the Lucas County Board of Elections, with two Republicans, Patrick Kriner and Lynn Olman, working in concert with this group Jeff Simpson is leading, would refer this on to the state party," Mr. Stainbrook said.
Mr. Stainbrook said he has performed well as chairman and that Mr. Simpson's claimed election did not occur at a valid reorganization meeting that state law requires. Mr. Olman said the board was only doing what state law required to resolve disputes between competing party factions.
"It doesn't give us much latitude. It says we shall forward them to the state central committee," Mr. Olman said. "I found no place where the Board of Elections was given any additional authority for the board to make decisions as to who did or did not submit a proper list."
Mr. Stainbrook said Mr. Olman and Mr. Kriner should have abstained from voting because they supported Mr. Simpson in the disputed Dec. 21 meeting.
Mr. Kriner said he did not give up his voting rights when he joined the elections board.
The certification was also approved by the board's two Democrats, Rita Clark and Gary Johnson.
The board overcame a problem with the Simpson list of committee members that threatened to invalidate their committee.
The list submitted Monday omitted the name of the central committee's secretary, as required by state law. Mr. Simpson said the omission was an oversight. A corrected list was submitted at 8:31 a.m., said elections board Director Linda Howe - one minute after the meeting was supposed to begin. The meeting began 10 minutes late.
Mr. Stainbrook objected to allowing the amended list into consideration, saying he was told that no changes would be accepted in the morning prior to the start of an 8:30 meeting.
On Friday, a federal judge denied a temporary restraining order sought by Mr. Stainbrook to prevent the elections board from recognizing the Simpson group as a claimant to party leadership.
Mr. Stainbrook has asked the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office to investigate the Board of Elections accepting of "sham" documents from the Simpson group.
The board had scheduled a meeting Dec. 26 based on documents that lacked a valid secretary.
The board's meeting was postponed and the Simpson group was given time to hold a meeting and appoint a secretary.
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