LORAIN — A disqualified mayoral candidate is looking to appeal the decision.
Councilwoman Mary Springowski, D-at large, is challenging her disqualification as a candidate for the mayoral appointment for the November ballot, according to a letter shared with The Chronicle-Telegram by Avon Lake-based attorney Gerald Phillips.
The letter, dated July 14, was sent to the Lorain County Board of Elections, Secretary of State and Ohio Attorney General’s Office. It states Lorain County Democratic Party Chairman Anthony Giardini invoked his and Tom Smith’s positions on the Board of Elections to bar her from the candidacy and that the law used to disqualify her and four other candidates should not have been applied as they were successful in the primary election in their respective races.
Following the resignation of former Mayor Chase Ritenauer after the May primary, Springowski along with Council President Joel Arredondo, Councilman At-large Mitch Fallis, Lorain City Auditor Karen Shawver, and then-Lorain Board of Education Vice President Tony Dimacchia were ruled ineligible for the appointment under a section of Ohio Revised Code barring anyone who was a candidate in the primary election from being appointed to fill a vacancy on the following November ballot.
The Central Committee then chose Joe Koziura to be interim mayor until after the election, and later selected attorney Jack Bradley to be the Democratic mayoral candidate in the fall.
Springowski’s letter to the Board of Elections states the law does not allow successful candidates to be disqualified, disputing the opinion Giardini referenced from the Secretary of State’s office upholding that interpretation of the law.
“Clearly, the Secretary of State was provided with inaccurate information or was deliberately misled,” the letter states.
Springowski could not be reached for comment Saturday afternoon. Neither could Paul Adams, who is the Board of Elections director and Lorain City Democratic Party chairman.
Giardini said he was unsure why Springowski was appealing by sending a letter to the Board of Elections, as they did not make the decision to disqualify her and others — the party’s Central Committee did.
He said if the committee had appointed someone who was ineligible, then the Board of Elections would have made a decision after it had been challenged, but that did not happen.
“If we had foolishly taken the advice of Gerald Phillips and appointed somebody not eligible, then it would have been a real problem.” he said. “We didn’t do that. If she wants to criticize that or she doesn’t like that, that’s fine, but our responsibility is to follow the law — not to violate the law and then expect the Board of Elections to agree with (it).”
Phillips had issued a memorandum of law and subsequent supplemental opinion alleging the disqualification was unconstitutional and that a candidate seeking the appointment could risk the seat they were elected to in the primary to be in the November race, adding a candidate seeking appointment must only withdraw before the filing deadline, not before seeking the nomination.
The Central Committee did not take Phillips’ unsolicited legal advice, and appointed Bradley to the November ballot.
Giardini also was critical of Phillips’ opinions during the meeting at which Bradley was appointed last month, prompting Phillips to demand a formal apology and retraction from the party chairman Friday or he would pursue further legal action.
Giardini said he had not seen a copy of Phillips’ response, which was sent to The Chronicle on Friday afternoon.
“If he felt I had done something to hurt his reputation, then the professional and courteous thing would be to take it up with me personally,” Giardini said. “He could have called me, he could have sent me a letter, but instead he apparently called the newspaper.”
He added later, “If he files any frivolous lawsuits, he’s going to find himself answering to some court in the future for filing frivolous lawsuits. There are rules against that in our judicial system. It can result in him being fined if he takes action that he knows or has no basis in fact for. That’s all I’m going to say about it. I’m not going to continue to debate this in the newspaper with him, because it’s not worthy of it.”
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