Rist exploring city council run

Published 11:05 pm Saturday, August 8, 2009

IRONTON — Beth Rist, the embattled Ironton Police Officer whose firing and successful appeal for reinstatement continues to play out like a game of legal ping-pong in both the courts of law and public opinion, just might be adding a new vocation to her resume — that of Ironton City Councilwoman.

Officials at the Lawrence County Board of Elections confirmed Friday that Rist did request and receive a petition packet from election workers in addition to having her name placed into the office’s “unofficial ledger” as to have obtained the paperwork.

Contacted Saturday at her home, Rist said family and friends have encouraged her to run.

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“Everyone in the city has been so good to me, I felt like I should do something to pay them back. It looks like they’re (Mayor Rich Blankenship and Police Chief Jim Carey) going to prevent me from coming back to work. If I can’t protect people on the streets (as an officer) I will go to a different level. If I can’t protect them with a gun, I’ll use a fountain pen.”

Rist listed her intention with the board of elections as a possible candidate for one of the four open seats on Ironton City Council this November.

By picking up a petition, she joins just a handful of others who have shown a possible interest in serving on Ironton’s legislative body.

In addition to Rist, current council members Bob Clearl, Leo Johnson and Mike Lutz, along with former councilman Hugh Scott, have picked up petition packets for possible runs.

Somewhat surprisingly, with less than two weeks before the Aug. 20 filing deadline, only Johnson has officially filed with his completed paperwork with the Lawrence County Board of Elections.

All will have to collect a minimum of 50 valid signatures from registered votes within the city of Ironton along with paying a $45 filing fee to be eligible to be placed on the November ballot.

Rish said Saturday she had already gotten more signatures than is required.

“I’ve already gotten 80 signatures and I don’t even need that many,” she said.

The board plans on certifying all filings on Friday, August 21. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Should Rist decide to file, it would add an interesting wrinkle as to her current employment status with the city.

Fired by Mayor Rich Blankenship in October 2008 for admitting to the falsification of a traffic ticket, Rist had her termination reversed by an arbitrator last month who claimed the 13-year police veteran was a “victim of disparate treatment” and that the city “had no just cause to discharge.”

The arbitrator had ruled that Rist’s be “restored to employment immediately effective upon receipt of this decision.”

However Rist has not returned to work as the city ponders a possible appeal and its interpretation of her probation status following her pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of falsification.

On July 17, Ironton City Council voted 5-2 to grant Blankenship the authority to appeal the arbitrator’s decision if the mayor decided to.

Many cities and villages prohibit city employees from serving as elected officials within the communities they are employed. If elected, whether or not she is eligible to serve based on her current employment status is cloudy.

Just recently, the Ohio Ethics Commission ruled that realtors could serve on city planning commissions, but how that could affect a police officer from serving on a city council remains unclear.

However, if Rist would file her candidacy and then decide to withdraw from the race, she would have to do so within a specific time period as to not cost county taxpayers thousands of dollars to reprint official ballots and addendum documents.