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Published: Tuesday, 3/9/2010

Stainbrook files with Ohio Supreme Court to halt appointment to board of elections

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - The Lucas County Republican Party executive committee Tuesday asked the Ohio Supreme Court to invalidate Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's recent appointment of Ben Marsh to the county elections board.

The 13-page complaint argues that the Democratic secretary had no authority to reject the appointment of Jon Stainbrook as the executive committee's recommendation in the wake of another recommendation submitted by a competing faction that claims to have ousted Mr. Stainbrook as party chairman.

Instead, Ms. Brunner named Ben Marsh, a GOP lawyer and former state representative from Maumee, to the four-member, bipartisan panel.

Mr. Stainbrook personally filed the court action.

"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," the complaint reads. "It particularly offends Lucas County citizens and (the committee) given the private back room nature of the appointment and the clear lack of legal authority to make sua sponte appointments.

"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,'" it reads.

To support their case, Mr. Stainbrook and the committee have pointed to a 2008 case involving Summit County Republicans in which the justices overwhelmingly voted that she could not twice reject election board recommendations from county party leadership in favor of a third choice that had not been 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," Mr. Stainbrook said.

The Summit County case took nearly three months to work its way through the court after the justices rejected an attempt to handle it as an expedited elections matter. 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 that the case was pending.

"I trust that Ben Marsh will make fair and honest decisions while he is on the board temporarily," Mr. Stainbrook said. "Ben's a good man."

Mr. Simpson said he has no plans 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.

Brunner spokesman Jeff Ortega said the secretary will review the case and respond in whatever time line is set by 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, not only in Lucas County but in the state."

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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