COLUMBUS - The Lucas County Republican Party Executive Committee yesterday urged Ohio's highest court to invalidate Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's appointment of Ben Marsh to the county elections board and replace him with Jon Stainbrook.
The 13-page complaint argues that Ms. Brunner, a Democrat, had no authority to reject the committee's recommendation for a board vacancy in the wake of a competing recommendation submitted by a faction that claims to have ousted Mr. Stainbrook as party chairman.
Ms. Brunner instead picked Mr. Marsh, a GOP lawyer and former state representative, for the four-member bipartisan panel.
"The secretary of state's actions undermine the role that the Legislature intended for the party's executive committee in the process of appointing members to a board of elections," according to the complaint written by attorney Anthony J. DeGidio. "It particularly offends Lucas County citizens and [the committee] given the private backroom nature of the appointment and the clear lack of legal authority. Secretary Brunner has not rejected Jon Stainbrook's recommendation on any basis provided for under Ohio law, but on her own ruling of law that the [committee] is not a 'de facto' committee."
To support their case, Mr. Stainbrook and the committee pointed to a 2008 case involving Summit County Republicans, in which the justices overwhelmingly voted she could not twice reject elections board recommendations from party leadership in favor of a third choice who wasn't recommended.
"I'm praying that the Supreme Court will fast-track this filing in hopes of getting a speedy and amicable resolution to the abuses up in Lucas County," said Mr. Stainbrook, who personally filed the complaint.
The Summit County case took nearly three months to work its way through the court. In the end, although the court overwhelmingly voted to vacate Ms. Brunner's appointment in favor of the party recommendation, it did not invalidate decisions made by her appointee in the months the case was pending.
"I trust Ben Marsh will make fair and honest decisions while he is on the board temporarily," Mr. Stainbrook said. "Ben's a good man."
The faction of the party headed by Jeffrey Simpson had recommended Toledo resident David Dmytryka for the board.
Mr. Simpson said he doesn't plan to ask the court to let him intervene in the case.
"I certainly understand Ms. Brunner's position, not wanting to get involved in the local fray, and doing a third-party pick who has an outside perspective," he said. "Now you have two people claiming to be chairman, two different names [for elections board] that have been submitted. I understand her predicament.
"This is not a situation where she decided she didn't like him so she cowboyed her way through it," Mr. Simpson said. "This is a special circumstance."
Brunner spokesman Jeff Ortega said the secretary will review the case and respond when appropriate to the court.
"A judge in Lucas County said neither side is the rightful leadership of the party," he said. "She was under a deadline set by statute to determine a new election board member. She picked a very well-qualified candidate who is well respected in Republican circles."
The lawsuit contends Mr. Marsh's appointment "was made as the result of some process … hidden from the public and based upon recommendation of unknown individuals or entities."
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