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Published: Thursday, 5/27/2010

Stainbrook ally wants elections board probe

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Stainbrook, Simpson Stainbrook, Simpson
JETTA FRASER Enlarge

A day after the Lucas County Board of Elections said it would investigate voter fraud charges against allies of Lucas County Republican Chairman Jon Stainbrook, his camp demanded a wide-ranging investigation of "irregularities" by the board.

Mr. Stainbrook's associate, party executive committee member Kelly Bensman, asked Elections Director Linda Howe and the county prosecutor to investigate whether poll workers were intimidated and defrauded into running as central committee candidates.

Ms. Bensman has made the demand before and no substantive investigation resulted. However, Ms. Bensman noted that three people recruited by the faction of the party supporting Jeff Simpson for chairman did not vote for themselves, adding weight to her claim that they never wanted to be on the central committee.

"I want investigated whether these people were deceived into signing these forms," Ms. Bensman said. "It's an irregularity that should be investigated."

One of those people, Nancy Henry, 74, of Point Place, told The Blade last night she did not vote for herself and was relieved when she lost.

Ms. Henry said a person whose name she could not recall called her several times and urged her to run for central committee. She tried to beg off running because she doesn't drive anymore and is taking several heart medications, but the caller wouldn't let up.

"They kept talking to me and talking to me and telling me about it. I tried to say I was housebound. They just wouldn't take no for an answer," Ms. Henry said.

Her declaration of candidacy as a write-in candidate was turned in by Paul Hoag, an ally of Mr. Simpson, on March 3. Mr. Hoag turned in the declarations of two other people who did not vote for themselves and one who dropped out before the election. Mr. Hoag said last night he turned in her declaration but didn't recruit her.

Mr. Simpson, a Toledo lawyer, and Mr. Stainbrook, who owns a public relations business, are locked in a struggle for control of the Lucas County Republican Party.

That fight is moving to the arena of the Lucas County GOP Central Committee, whose members were elected May 4 in the primary election and were certified on Tuesday. The Ohio Republican Party, which has taken control of the upcoming central committee meeting, has not yet set a date, but is leaning toward June 5, according to Jason Mauk, the party's executive director.

On Tuesday, Mr. Simpson submitted a list of 10 central committee members and allies of Mr. Stainbrook who allegedly do not live in the addresses claimed.

Deputy Director Jeremy Demagall said the elections board intends to investigate, saying they are potentially cases of voter fraud.

He said he had seen Ms. Bensman's request for an investigation and said she should submit more evidence.

"It'd be nice for someone to tell us they were intimidated," Mr. Demagall said. "I can't investigate every third-party complaint."

He said the elections board is not an investigative agency, and is required by law to look into claims that a voter no longer lives in the district.

In a letter to Ms. Howe yesterday, Ms. Bensman accused Mr. Demagall of "using the [Board of Elections] to help Simpson and Hoag harass and defame candidates and allies of Jon Stainbrook again."

Mr. Demagall said yesterday the board is obligated by law to investigate when it is presented with evidence, such as returned undeliverable envelopes. Ms. Howe was out of the office and could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mr. Stainbrook backed Ms. Bensman's request for an investigation and said Mr. Simpson lacks credibility in bringing such complaints. He cited Mr. Simpson's attack on him last month as having recruited people with criminal records to run for central committee, noting that at least one of the people may have been falsely accused.

In a complaint said to have been filed Monday with the Ohio Supreme Court disciplinary counsel, Homer Lee Smith Jr., of

Schneider Road in South Toledo, charged that Mr. Simpson erroneously named him as having been convicted of a drug-related crime.

Mr. Smith was one of seven people identified by Mr. Simpson in an April 30 news conference as being central committee candidates allied with Mr. Stainbrook who had criminal records.

Mr. Smith said Mr. Simpson could easily have figured out that he, a 48-year-old ordained minister with no criminal record, was not the 29-year-old individual with the same name who was convicted in 2001 and 2005 of drug crimes. He said Mr. Simpson's charges tarnished his reputation.

"All I can say is that at the polls many, many people thought that I was a convicted drug dealer and that's why I didn't get as many votes as I would have otherwise," Mr. Smith said. "It was totally false."

Mr. Smith survived the political attack to defeat his opponent, John Lavelle II, by a vote of 15-14 to represent Precinct 15G.

Mr. Simpson declined to comment on the grievance.

Ms. Bensman also requested an investigation into the residency of Patrick Kriner, one of two Republicans serving on the Lucas County Board of Elections, alleging that he has moved out of his Sylvania home and is living in Port Clinton.

Reached yesterday on his cell phone, Mr. Kriner denied that he has moved. Mr. Stainbrook has repeatedly sought to force Mr. Kriner's resignation or removal from the board.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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