The administrator of the canton of Orange is back in the November ballot
LEWIS CENTER – Ben Grumbles, who is in the middle of a tenure as an administrator in the Canton of Orange, is allowed to run for another administrator seat in the November 2 election.
The Ohio Supreme Court unanimously granted Grumbles a mandate as mandamus, ordering the Delaware County Electoral Board to put his name on the ballot. Last month, the local electoral council twice ruled that Grumbles was not eligible for a post he already holds.
Grumbles, of Lewis Center, won his trustee seat in the 2019 general election for a four-year term that began January 1, 2020. On August 4, Grumbles filed a valid nomination petition and nomination paper for the November elections with the Election Council for a four-year term as administrator of the Canton of Orange from January 1, 2022.
The townships of Ohio have three directors, who are elected for staggered terms – two in odd-numbered years and the third two years later. Grumbles contested for the third seat in 2019 and is now vying for one of the other two seats. If he wins the November election, Grumbles has said he will step down or leave his current seat when he takes office in January. The board of directors of the canton of Orange would then have 30 days to appoint a successor.
On August 16, the Delaware County Electoral Board voted not to certify Grumbles’ name on the ballot. Grumbles asked the council to reconsider its decision, saying it had previously allowed a county commissioner to apply for a different commissioner seat midway through his term. On August 25, the election board voted unanimously to deny the review. On August 27, Grumbles appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which issued a slip notice (expedited ruling) on Monday.
“Grumbles meets the statutory requirements to run as a director of Orange Township, and there is no statutory provision that prohibits him from running for a different seat on the same board of directors,” said State ex rel. Grumbles vs. Delaware Co. Bd. Elections. “As a result, the board of directors abused its discretion and ignored applicable legal authority by refusing to certify his candidacy for the November general election ballot.”
The court rejected three arguments put forward by the election office. The first two arguments used different means of saying that the directors’ seats are indistinguishable, but the court cited revised Ohio code 505.01 to argue that the three seats are separate. The third argument was that if Grumbles won, it would create a conflict of interest in appointing his successor.
“The board’s argument is not convincing, as it is based on supposed political considerations that are not spelled out in the statutes governing the election of township trustees,” the court said.
While Grumbles obtained the order to be entered on the ballot, the court rejected his request for recovery of legal fees “on the grounds that the board of directors acted in bad faith in refusing to certify his candidacy” .
The court said: “Although the board’s justifications for keeping Grumbles out of the ballot are legally incorrect, we find no evidence on the record to show that the board’s reasons were ‘artificial attempts to justify an untenable position. “(citing a 1990 case) Overall, the record shows that the board struggled with Grumbles’ candidacy because it was unusual and unprecedented, without any statutory or jurisprudential authority to prohibit it. or authorized it. In these circumstances, Grumbles has not established that the board of directors harbored ill will or dishonest purpose in rejecting his candidacy. “
The Ohio Supreme Court is made up of Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Sharon L. Kennedy, Patrick F. Fischer, R. Patrick DeWine, Michael P. Donnelly, Melody J. Stewart and Jennifer Brunner. For more information, visit www.supremecourt.ohio.gov.
In addition to Grumbles, the two Orange Township trustee candidates are former trustee Lisa Knapp of Powell, newcomer Kristie Ramsey of Lewis Center and incumbent Ryan Rivers of Lewis Center.
Gary Budzak can be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.