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Mayor files suit against BOE: Keith claims Cramblit is ineligible

On Oct. 28, Ironton Mayor Katrina Keith filed a suit with the Ohio Supreme Court asking that the Lawrence County Board of Elections not count the votes of her opponent in the mayoral race, Sam Cramblit II, until the court makes a ruling on, in part, whether he is qualified to be in the race because of concerns about his residency.

The suit was filed against the Lawrence County Board of Elections and its members, chairman Craig Allen, Randall Lambert, J.T. Holt and Carl Bowen. Keith is represented by attorney George L. Davis IV, of Portsmouth.

For a writ of prohibition to be issued by a court, according to the Franklin County Criminal Law Casebook, which cited the case of State, ex rel. La Boiteaux Co., v. Court (1980), 61 Ohio St. 2d 60, 61, there must be three conditions that are met: (1) The court or officer against whom it is sought must be about to exercise judicial or quasi-judicial power, (2) the exercise of such power must be clearly unauthorized by law, and (3) it must appear that the refusal of the writ would result in injury for which there is no adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.”

In Keith’s filing, she cites that, under the city charter, to qualify to be a candidate for Ironton mayor, a person has had to be a resident of the city for at least five years before they can run for office and that Cramblit has not met that qualification.

The charter of the City of Ironton states under Article III, Section 3.01 that “The Mayor shall be an elector and resident of the City of Ironton, Ohio, for at least five years preceding the election, and remain a resident of the City during his term of office. The Mayor shall hold no other elected office, nor hold any other employment with the City of Ironton. The position of Mayor is to be a full-time position.”

The suit also shows that Cramblit voted in Athens County in 2012 and 2014 and that he voted in Lawrence County twice in 2016 and once in 2018.

Cramblit has put out documents from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles showing that he had applied for a state driver’s license with an Ironton address in 2009, 2012 and 2016. He also put out Ironton tax returns showing an Ironton address for the years 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Cramblit, who is not named in this suit, said he has consulted with legal experts who specialize in election law.

“They try dozens of these cases every year and I’m confident Mayor Keith will not win that case or any other cases,” he said. “It is just unfortunate that she has tried everything she can to take this decision away from the voters, in my opinion. If I am fortunate enough to win, I am confident that I am qualified to serve as mayor.”

Keith’s suit says that the Lawrence County Board of Election, in certifying Cramblit’s name to the ballot, was exercising “judicial or quasi-judicial power” and that was “unauthorized by law, had “abused their discretion and acted in clear disregard of the applicable legal provisions” and that Cramblit’s name should not have been on the general election ballot because he is not qualified under Ironton City Charter. The board certified Cramblit to the ballot in August.

It goes on to say that the board’s actions resulted in injury to Keith “and others for which there is no plain and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.”

In October, Keith filed a complaint with the board of elections that challenged whether Cramblit had been a resident in Ironton long enough to qualify to run for mayor and the board took no action because the complaint was filed after the deadline.

The suit asks for the Ohio Supreme Court to issue an alternative writ of prohibition “staying any action by the Respondents to certify the candidacy of Cramblit, place his name on the ballot, or count any votes for Cramblit as valid for the office of Mayor of Ironton in the 2019 election until final determination of this Court.” And to issue a writ of prohibition “directing and restraining the Respondent from certifying the candidacy of Cramblit for the Office of Mayor of Ironton, or counting any votes for Cramblit as valid for the office of Mayor of Ironton in the 2019 election.”

The suit says the board and its members are represented by legal counsel Brigham Anderson, but because he represents both the city and county offices in legal matters, Scioto County Prosecutor Shane Tieman took over legal representation.

Tieman, who along with two assistant prosecutors, were sworn in to handle the case, said he didn’t have any comment at this time due to the matter being pending litigation.