Sidney man files complaint against board of elections

Staff report

SIDNEY – A formal complaint alleging a violation of the Ohio Open Meetings Act by the Shelby County Board of Elections has been filed with the Shelby County Commissioners.

Sidney resident R. Michael Johnson filed the complaint Thursday afternoon with Commissioners Bob Guillozet and Tony Bornhorst after witnessing what he believes is a violation of the Open Meetings Act Thursday morning.

“We received the letter from Mr. Johnson,” said Bornhorst. “We stamped and dated it and have forwarded it to the prosecutor. Mr. Johnson has asked that we provide a warning about once a meeting ends they should stop talking about election matters.

“Prosecutor Tim Sell will get back to us on how we should respond,” said Bornhorst.

Late Thursday afternoon Sell called to discuss the the complaint.

“I have drafted a letter to the Commissioners and it discusses how the statue works,” said Sell. “There were no violations of the open meetings act.”

The commissioners, he said, will receive the letter Friday.

The Board of Elections met Thursday morning at the request of Secretary of State Jon Husted to review irregularities on local ballot petitions filed on behalf of a statewide group seeking to cap prescription drug costs in the state. All 88 Ohio counties held similar meetings.

According to Johnson’s complaint, the actual meeting was above-board, legal and properly advertised. However, it’s what happened after the meeting which he said he found concerning.

“After the meeting was over, and the members of the public in attendance were in the process of leaving, the board members all sat at their table and continued to discuss local election-related matters,” said Johnson in a press release. “In effect, they had their own ‘special’ meeting after their ‘official’ meeting concluded.”

The complaint lists two specific discussions between board members which constituted the alleged violation.

In his complaint Johnson acknowledged the board took no formal action during its second “meeting.”

“With the current public distrust of the Shelby County Board of Elections, and the ongoing legal quagmire in which it finds itself, it is therefore requested that this commission direct the Shelby County Prosecutor to advise the Board of Elections to cease and desist any such further actions immediately,” the complaint states. “Even if there were no outright violations ORC 122.22, the mere suggestion of impropriety casts a pallor of doubt on the integrity of that office – which is unacceptable – and further tarnishes an already blemished reputation for fair and honest elections in Shelby County.”

Johnson said he filed the complaint because having a free, fair, honest and unimpeachable electoral process is sacrosanct to him.

In his complaint, Johnson also placed the commissioners on notice that another avenue of recourse which Ohio law allows is injunctive relief.

“But, filing suit in Common Pleas Court would cost the county’s taxpayers a lot of money. I went to the commissioners first because this is something I trust they and the prosecutor can handle professionally without involving the local legal system. The last thing Shelby County needs right now is another lawsuit against the Board of Elections which it would undoubtedly lose.”

Staff report