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Published: 5/17/2008

Judge delays Lucas County GOP meeting

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

The political showdown scheduled for today to elect a chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party was ordered postponed yesterday for further legal wrangling.

Judge William Skow of the Lucas County Sixth District Court of Appeals ordered the organizational meeting of the party s central committee postponed to resolve the dispute over 21 committee members whose party credentials have been called into question.

Jon Stainbrook, the GOP political activist who recruited 170 people to run for seats on the central committee, said he was exhilarated by Judge Skow s order to let his recruits have their day in court.

If all these people are reinstated that [central committee chairman] Doug Haynam removed, then it will be a landslide victory for me, and I think he knows it, Mr. Stainbrook said.

Mr. Stainbrook is challenging Bob Reichert for the chairmanship. The organizational meeting is required by law to be held after the March 4 primary election in which central committee members were elected.

Mr. Reichert said the delay is disruptive for the local party.

Mr. Stainbrook thought he wanted my job, and with them keeping postponing the vote I guess it means he doesn t have the votes to complete the deal, Mr. Reichert said.

Judge Skow ruled on an appeal filed by Mr. Stainbrook to overturn a May 6 ruling by Lucas County Common Pleas Visiting Judge J. Ronald Bowman.

In that case, the judge ruled that the 21 people who were among 250 people elected to the Republican Party central committee did not qualify as Republicans either because they had no history of voting in a Republican primary or because they voted a Democratic ballot on March 4.

Mr. Haynam, who filed the original suit questioning the GOP credentials of the 21 central committee members, said he doesn t know if Judge Skow disagrees with Judge Bowman s ruling. He said getting to a resolution could take some time.

He thinks this matters. It s important to get it right, Mr. Haynam said.

Mr. Haynam and lawyers for Mr. Stainbrook conferred late yesterday over a settlement that would allow today s meeting to go ahead, but without success.

Mr. Stainbrook said he was concerned about the effect the delay will have on his recruits, many of whom had rearranged their schedules to attend the early morning meeting.

He said he had arranged for 10 SUVs and vans to offer rides to his supporters to make sure they didn t miss the meeting.

An earlier meeting date set for April 12 was delayed when a judge ruled that the party had not given adequate notice.

Lawyers said one of the questions to be settled is whether candidates for the Republican Party central committee declared their party membership when they filed their candidacy when they voted in the most recent primary.

Under Ohio law, the Lucas County Board of Elections relies on people s voting records in the most recent presidential primary to determine whether they can run for the Democratic or Republican central committee.

Scott Ciolek, an attorney for Mr. Stainbrook, said that s not necessarily a fair guide.

A party has no control over its membership, Mr. Ciolek said. When people sign those declarations [of candidacy for central committee], they are swearing under oath they are a Republican. If a Republican decides to vote in a Democratic primary that does not mean they re not Republican anymore.

The judge s delay came while Mr. Stainbrook, Mr. Hayman, Mr. Ciolek, and two other lawyers argued a related issue in front of Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Charles Doneghy.

During testimony, Mr. Haynam disclosed that Joanne Wack, who resigned earlier this week as the party s executive director over disclosure of a 1989 felony conviction for grand larceny, is still working in the party headquarters as a volunteer.

He said Ms. Wack used her computer to generate voter records at his request for yesterday s hearing.

The Republican Party needs all the volunteers we can get, Mr. Haynam said.

Mr. Stainbrook cited Ms. Wack s continued service for the party as evidence that the current leadership tolerates a culture of corruption.

My campaign has been about change from the culture of corruption that has been there, he said.

Mr. Reichert said, I don t think I ve operated under a culture of corruption ever.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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