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Published: Saturday, 9/4/2010

Elections board member asked to quit

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Ben Marsh was appointed by Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner during a bid to oust Jon Stainbrook as Lucas County Republican chairman. Ben Marsh was appointed by Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner during a bid to oust Jon Stainbrook as Lucas County Republican chairman.
JEREMY WADSWORTH / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

State Republican Chairman Kevin DeWine asked a Republican member of the Lucas County Board of Elections to step aside so local party Chairman Jon Stainbrook can make his own appointment to the board, but was turned down.

Mr. DeWine said Friday he made the request of Ben Marsh, who was appointed by Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner on March 1 at a time when it was unclear who was in charge of the local Republican Party.

Mr. Marsh Friday disputed that he was asked to resign during their Wednesday phone conversation, but had no alternative explanation for why Mr. DeWine had called him.

"I was not specifically asked to resign and I didn't offer to," Mr. Marsh said.

In a related development, the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals released a ruling upholding a Feb. 11 decision denying a request from Mr. Stainbrook for an injunction that originated in the party leadership dispute of last winter.

Ohio Republican Chairman Kevin DeWine says he asked Ben Marsh to resign to make way for Jon Stainbrook's appointee. Ohio Republican Chairman Kevin DeWine says he asked Ben Marsh to resign to make way for Jon Stainbrook's appointee.
KIICHIRO SATO / AP Enlarge

Mr. Stainbrook had asked the court for an injunction to block the Lucas County Board of Elections from certifying a list of central committee candidates put together by Toledo lawyer Jeff Simpson Dec. 21 as he tried to take over the party's central committee.

Mr. Stainbrook's faction claimed the list was fraudulent and that the elections board knew it was.

The appellate court upheld Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Doneghy's Feb. 11 ruling that the elections board was obligated by state law to certify the two competing lists of central committee members and forward them to the state Republican Party to decide the true chairman.

The appeals court also upheld Judge Doneghy's ruling that neither Mr. Stainbrook nor Mr. Simpson had been elected chairman within the time frame required by state law for local parties to organize. Judge Doneghy's ruling was later relied on by Ms. Brunner when she rejected nominations from Mr. Stainbrook and Mr. Simpson for a vacancy on the elections board and instead selected Mr. Marsh, a Maumee lawyer who headed the local Republican Party in the early 1970s.

Mr. Stainbrook was re-elected in June, and is now the undisputed chairman.

He said Friday the party will appeal the appeals court ruling. He said it was made by three Democratic appeals judges to uphold the decisions of a Democratic Common Pleas Court judge, the Democratic county prosecutor, the Democratic Ohio Secretary of State, and the Democratic director of the Lucas County Board of Elections.

"The Democrats have controlled this county top to bottom for years and this is exactly why things have to change," Mr. Stainbrook said.

He said the appeals court judges had "rubber-stamped" the decision of Secretary of State Brunner, who, he said, was protecting Linda Howe, the director of the county elections board. Ms. Howe declined comment and said she had no idea why Ms. Brunner appointed Mr. Marsh.

A constant critic of the elections board for three years, Mr. Stainbrook has vowed to clean house in what he has contended is a corrupt Board of Elections office. The four-person board has one other Republican member, Patrick Kriner, whose resignation Mr. Stainbrook has also demanded, unsuccessfully.

Mr. DeWine said he told Mr. Marsh that as the duly elected chairman, Mr. Stainbrook has the right to appoint the board member, and that only could happen if there were a vacancy on the board.

He said he told Mr. Marsh, "I was hoping that would happen sooner rather than later."

Mr. Marsh didn't take the hint, saying Friday he did not hear a request for him to step aside. Asked what he would do if the request were put more bluntly, Mr. Marsh declined to answer.

In its ruling, the appellate court agreed that the Board of Elections was obligated to certify lists of central committee members provided by both factions of the party and forward them to the state party, as provided under state law.

The decision was signed by judges Mark Pietrykowski, Arlene Singer, and Thomas Osowik.

In April, the state Supreme Court ruled April 30 that Ms. Brunner did not overstep her authority by making her own appointment to the elections board.

Blade Staff Writer Erica Blake contributed to this report.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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