John Navarre, the Republican candidate for Lucas County auditor, was placed on administrative leave with pay Monday while the question of whether he can continue his race for auditor is decided by his boss — the current Lucas County auditor.
Mr. Navarre, 54, may possibly have blundered into a violation of Ohio law when he filed last week for the Republican nomination to run against Democratic Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez.
Ohio Revised Code 124.57 says an employee in the “classified service” of the state is prohibited from running for a partisan political office.
Mr. Navarre is a commercial appraiser and a member of the auditor’s United Auto Workers’ bargaining unit. He could not be reached for comment Monday.
Ursula Barrera-Richards, Ms. Lopez’s chief of staff, said that the union and Ms. Lopez have agreed to investigate the situation before taking action.
Mr. Navarre can be disciplined in his job, including being fired, and he can be prosecuted for allegedly committing a misdemeanor, with a potential penalty of a $500 fine and up to six months in jail, according to the Lucas County prosecutor’s office.
Ms. Barrera-Richards said the collective-bargaining agreement between the UAW and the auditor requires the auditor to act within a certain amount of time after learning of an alleged infraction.
The action that was taken Monday allows an extension of that deadline for the legalities to be investigated, she said.
Assistant Lucas County Prosecutor James Walter said a 1983 opinion by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office said that it’s up to the employee’s employer how far to enforce the prohibition, as far as Mr. Navarre’s job status.
“It’s within the authority of the auditor’s office to make a determination as to his employment,” Mr. Walter said. He said he doesn’t know why the law exists.
But whether he should be prosecuted — and whether the prohibition started as soon as Mr. Navarre declared his intention to run for office or only after he is certified — may be up to Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates, and she could not be reached Monday for comment.
Mr. Navarre, who lives in South Toledo, filed Feb. 5. His signatures were collected for him by Matthew Berry of Northwood, who was working for the Lucas County Republican Party.
If Mr. Navarre is forced to give up his quest for the auditor’s office, that would leave Ms. Lopez unopposed for re-election, for now. However, the Republican Party has two remaining routes to replace Mr. Navarre if he quits the race.
A Republican can file as a write-in candidate in the May 6 primary election. The filing deadline is Feb. 24. A write-in candidate must receive at least 50 votes to win the party nomination. Mr. Navarre also could withdraw as a candidate, allowing the party to appoint a replacement.
That’s how Ms. Lopez wound up with her opponent four years ago. Norman Witzler of Waterville won the GOP nomination as a write-in candidate. Mr. Witzler withdrew and the party substituted the name of Gina Kaczala as the Republican nominee.