COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court Friday unanimously rejected an attempt by Jon Stainbrook to force Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to appoint him to the Lucas County Board of Elections.
The court found that Ms. Brunner acted within her authority when she refused to accept conflicting recommendations for a four-year term on the board from competing factions claiming control of the county Republican Party. Instead she made a third choice, Toledo attorney Ben Marsh, not recommended by either side.
The court noted that Lucas County Common Pleas Court had ruled that neither faction had complied with election rules and that the Ohio Republican Party State Central Committee had not resolved the dispute by the time the March 1 deadline arrived for Ms. Brunner to act.
"…(T)he secretary of state was authorized to select a different person than those recommended by the competing groups, and she exercised this authority by appointing Marsh to the board of elections,'' the court wrote.
"The conflicting recommendations, which the secretary of state lacked authority to resolve, in effect left the secretary with no viable recommendation in the absence or either a resolution of the dispute by the state central committee or a final judicial determination,'' it said.
The lawsuit was filed by the Lucas County Republican Party Executive Committee, but the court referred to it as the "Stainbrook faction'' in its opinion. The committee asked the court to invalidate Ms. Brunner's alternative choice of Mr. Marsh to a Republican seat on the board and to replace him with Mr. Stainbrook.
Ms. Brunner had also overlooked David Dmytryka, a Toledoan recommended by the faction led by Jeffrey Simpson that claims to have ousted Mr. Stainbrook as chairman.
The court found that the committee needed to prove that Ms. Brunner had abused her discretion or clearly disregarded the law, but the court found she'd done neither.
The state central committee decided two weeks ago to empower its chairman, Kevin DeWine, to appoint a temporary chairman of the county party's central committee. That temporary chairman, whom Mr. DeWine has not yet named, would oversee a county reorganization meeting in June.
Tuesday's election will select members of the county central committee, who will choose the chairman at that meeting.