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Mayor’s case still ongoing: Responses are being filed with Ohio Supreme Court

While a case filed by Ironton Mayor Katrina Keith against the Lawrence County Board of Elections is still being considered by the Ohio Supreme Court, responses are still being filed by both sides.

Keith filed the case with the supreme court on Oct. 28 and asked 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 asked for a writ of prohibition and cited that Cramblit was not eligible because, 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 the suit said that Cramblitt has not met that qualification. As part of the suit, there were documents showing that he had voted in Athens County in 2012 and 2014 and that he voted in Lawrence County twice in 2016 and once in 2018.

The board of elections took no action on the complaint and in the Nov. 5 election, Cramblitt won with 2,055 votes to Keith’s 816 votes.

Cramblit, who is not a defendant in the case, 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.

The board’s attorney, Shane Tieman, responded that the Ohio Revised Code requires that written protests had to be filed on or before Aug. 23, which is the 74th day before the general election as required by state law, and that Keith didn’t file an objection with the board until Oct. 1, which is 26 days before the election. The Board of Election didn’t consider the matter until Oct. 23 and took no action on it because the “untimeliness of the filing.”

That is why Keith filed for a writ of prohibition with Ohio Supreme Court.

Keith’s response, filed by attorney George Davis, of Portsmouth, said that “Although Keith’s protest was belated, it nonetheless called into question the errors made by Board of Election in even certifying Cramblit in the first place.”

The response said that laches, a legal term for an unreasonable delay in making an assertion or claim, such as asserting a right, claiming a privilege, or making an application for redress, which may result in refusal, “may otherwise bar Keith’s claims, she used diligence after discovering the issue, and there can be no prejudice to the Board of Election, and further none is specified in their Merit Brief, as Cramblit should never have been a certified candidate in the first place; there is nothing Cramblit or Board of Election could have done to cure this defect and therefore no prejudice occurred.”

It continued that “again, irrespective of whether the filing was immediate or belated, the passage of time changed nothing regarding Board of Election’ actions, and further, they waited three weeks themselves before casting aside Keith’s valid protest.”

The board’s response said that if Keith’s assertions are correct and Cramblit is not qualified, the city charter said, if a mayor is not available, the vice mayor would become acting mayor.

Keith’s response say that suggestion is not one available to her because the “potential vacancy in the Office of Mayor of Ironton would only commence at the end of Keith’s term of office, thus precluding her from challenging Cramblit’s ability to claim the position in the first place. Such could be an adequate remedy at law for a voter or citizen of Ironton, other councilpersons of the City of Ironton, or even its Solicitor, but not Keith, so her case meets the criteria for issuance of a writ of prohibition.

Keith’s response continues that “Here, Board of Election clearly misapplied unambiguous law by certifying Cramblit’s candidacy. In a writ of prohibition action against a board of elections, the standard of review is whether the board engaged in fraud, corruption, or abuse of discretion, or acted in clear disregard of applicable legal provisions.”

“Here, Board of Election effectively concede that they did not properly apply the law, but instead hide behind casting blame upon Keith’s delay when, in reality, their own delay in considering Keith’s protest, timely or not, far outweighed Keith’s relative diligence.

To condone Board of Election’ conduct is to allow them to abdicate their responsibility to enforce election laws and their obligation to the voters, placing the burden back upon the citizens to double check their work. As a result, the requested writ should issue.”

The Ohio Supreme Court is considering the case and there is no indication of when a ruling on the case will be issued.