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Suit filed over Lorain's mayoral selection

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    Gerald Phillips

    CHRONICLE FILE

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LORAIN — An Avon Lake attorney filed a protest against the county Board of Elections regarding the selection of Lorain’s Democratic mayoral candidate.

Gerald Phillips filed the protest Monday morning, arguing the selection of Jack Bradley as the party’s mayoral candidate on the November ballot was through “an abuse of discretion, unlawful, illegal and invalid acts and activities” via a violation of election laws, fraud and conflicts of interest.

Lorain County Board of Elections director Paul Adams confirmed via email the complaint has been forwarded to the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office for review. He could not be reached for further comment Monday evening.

Following former Mayor Chase Ritenauer’s resignation after winning the May primary, the Lorain Democratic Central Committee was tasked with picking an interim mayor to serve until Dec. 31 and someone to fill Ritenauer’s slot in the general election. Initially, several local elected officials sought the appointment to the November ballot, but were disqualified under a section of the Ohio Revised Code commonly referred to as the “sore loser statute.”

The law bars anyone who appeared on the primary ballot from running in the November election for a different seat or office.

Phillips issued an opinion before Bradley was selected, stating the law was unconstitutional and should not have been applied to successful primary candidates. He suggested those who wished to seek the appointment could risk their already won primary seats to do so. He later issued a supplemental opinion clarifying successful primary candidates only had to withdraw ahead of the filing deadline, not before the appointment meeting.

His protest, filed on behalf of clients Dennis Flores, D-Ward 2, and Ohio Citizens for Honesty, Integrity and Openness in Government, upholds the law should not have been applied to the successful primary candidates. He alleges Democratic Party Chairman Anthony Giardini committed fraud against the Central Committee and there are conflicts of interest among Giardini, Adams and Gerald Innes, Assistant Lorain County Prosecutor and counsel for the Board of Elections whose opinion on the statute differed from Phillips’. He states the successful primary candidates were illegally excluded from consideration, rendering the entire nomination process null and void.

He requests Jack Bradley be barred from appearing on the November ballot and be paid the cost of the protest, including attorney fees incurred by his clients.

In a statement included with his filing, Phillips said, “Giardini called my Legal Memorandum and the legal challenges thereunder as a ‘Game of Thrones,’ well touch←, game on.”

Flores’ comment in the same email states he believes in the “conspiracy theory” same as Phillips that the selection process was preplanned by the “good old boys of Lorain.”

Along with his protest Monday, Phillips issued another supplemental legal memorandum further clarifying his timeline for candidates’ withdrawal — noting “all the successful primary candidate need to do is formally withdraw once he or she is nominated and elected successfully as the replacement for the former Mayor Ritenauer and prior to the (Lorain Central Committee) filing the mandatory filing under (Ohio Revised Code.)”

One of the disqualified candidates, Mary Springowski, D-at large, also has appealed the decision. On July 14 she sent a letter to the Board of Elections, Secretary of State and Ohio Attorney General’s Office stating the law used to disqualify her and four other candidates should not have been applied to them. She said Monday evening she is not affiliated with Gerald Phillips or his most recent filing.

Phillips’ protest filing comes shortly after a threat to sue county Giardini for libel and slander, after the chairman criticized Phillips’ legal opinion on the appointment process. Phillips is demanding an apology and retraction from the other attorney by July 31 or he will look at his legal options. Giardini previously stated if Phillips filed any “frivolous lawsuits,” that he would find himself answering to some court.

Contact Carissa Woytach at (440) 329-7245 or cwoytach@chroniclet.com.


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