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Published: Wednesday, 9/1/2010

Records suit back in appeals court

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A public-records lawsuit pitting a Lucas County Republican Party official against the county's Board of Elections has ping-ponged again between appellate court and the state's highest court.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Brown dismissed an appeal in the case Tuesday, sending the lawsuit back to the 6th District Court of Appeals for Lucas County for the second time this year.

The appeal was brought by plaintiff Kelly Bensman, a member of the GOP's executive committee and close associate of party Chairman Jon Stainbrook. She disagreed with a March appellate court decision that wouldn't let her add more claims of destroyed documents to her complaint.

Ms. Bensman is suing the board of elections because she believes officials there violated Ohio's Public Records Act by destroying documents and not giving her others. She filed the suit in July, 2008.

Attorneys on both sides asked Judge Brown to dismiss Ms. Bensman's latest appeal. In an interview Tuesday, she said she feared that the election board's attorneys would draw out the case if it remained in supreme court, and that a quicker resolution was possible through the appellate court.

The appeals court will now decide whether to award Ms. Bensman the more than $64,000 she is seeking from the county in attorneys' fees, as well as at least $4,000 in damages for the destroyed documents.

"We're going to speed it along," Ms. Bensman said. "We're going to let the 6th District Court of Appeals pick up where they left off."

John Borell, assistant Lucas County prosecutor representing the elections board, took issue with Ms. Bensman's claim that the elections board wants to stall.

"We have filed all of the deadlines set by the court," he said.

The board of elections has long insisted that no documents were destroyed illegally.

Ms Bensman said Tuesday that after the appeals court makes a final ruling, she plans to sue the elections board again over new revelations of destroyed documents.

"We're suing on behalf of the public," she said. "Hopefully, the Board of Elections will honor public-records requests honestly in the future."

The current case stems from a bitter fight over the election of central-committee members in early 2008 that ended with Mr. Stainbrook's election as party chairman. He was re-elected party chairman in June.



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