Friday, May 29, 2009

Is a local party's executive committee a public body?

Well, that's the question.

Last night, the Lucas County Republican Party held an executive committee meeting to address several issues, one of them being a seat on the Lucas County Board of Elections.

First, you should know that the local party does not appoint to this position. The executive committee makes a recommendation to the Secretary of State who can then either accept or reject the recommendation.

Last night, the argument was made that the recommendation of Patrick Kriner for re-appointment to the BOE in 2008 was somehow 'unlawful' because the meeting did not take place in accordance with Ohio's public meeting laws.

So the first question we should all be asking is this: is a party's executive committee subject to these laws? Not according to the state's Ohio Sunshine Laws Manual.

There are certain times when a party's central committee is acting as a public body, like when it votes to fill certain elective offices that have become vacant. During such actions, the central committee can hold an executive session to discuss the appointment, but must then conduct the vote in the public portion of their meeting. That position is also supported by a 1980 Ohio Attorney General Opinion (80-08).

An earlier AG Opinion (70-011) explains that even though there are times when the central committee members are considered 'public officers,' they are still officers of the political party, not officers of government entity. That distinction is important because only government entities are subject to Ohio's Sunshine Laws.

But the central committee is not the executive committee. In fact, the executive committee, at least locally, has served as the recommending body for the central committee for decades. In filling vacancies in elective office and on the ballot, the LCRP executive committee has screened individuals and then made recommendations to the central committee which then voted to accept or reject the recommendation.

This is the same process used for a seat on the Board of Elections. The executive committee meets and makes a recommendation - except for this seat, the recommendation is to the Secretary of State.

Now, I'm not a lawyer, but this seems pretty simple and straightforward. Only governmental bodies are subject to the state's public meetings laws and private bodies may be subject to those laws, but only when performing certain functions of a public nature. Recommendations are not listed in the Sunshine Manual as one of those certain functions.

But that won't stop LCRP Chairman Jon Stainbrook from his effort to eject a good member of the BOE. According to today's paper, the plan is to hope that Kriner will resign (which I sincerely doubt), then ask Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to remove him (which she can only do for cause) and then file suit to force the desired outcome.

A spokesman for Ms. Brunner said that according to the department's election law attorneys, Mr. Kriner's appointment was lawful.

"State law has been followed in this instance. Every indication has been that this is a proper recommendation," spokesman Jeff Ortega said.

State law requires the secretary of state to appoint the person recommended by the local party's executive committee, unless she has reason to believe the nominee would not be a competent member.

State law allows the secretary of state to remove Mr. Kriner for neglect of duty or wrongdoing in office. Mr. Ortega said he was not aware of any problem with Mr. Kriner's service.

Why does Stainbrook want Kriner off the board? Well, because without a vacancy he can't get himself appointed - and he wants the position, ... and the salary, ... and the ability to hire/fire the staff in the office.

In a strange twist at the meeting, mayoral candidate Jim Moody nominated Stainbrook to fill the vacancy. Moody already has an issue that could haunt him at the ballot box this year. (He moved into the city to run for mayor, but his family did not.) Making this nomination could put him at odds with many Republicans who do not approve of threatening to sue people to get your way - something Stainbrook has a penchant for doing - especially when it's fellow Republicans who are the targets of such threats. But as of this writing, the local party has not yet endorsed Moody for the mayor's seat, which may have been a factor in his decision to nominate Stainbrook.

***Side Note: Is Jim Moody actually a member of the executive committee that he could make such a nomination? I don't know. There are certain required members (like club presidents, ward chairman, state central committee members, past chairman and elected officials) and then the party chairman gets to appoint an equal number of individuals. Maybe Moody is one of Stainbrook's appointees to the committee. I don't know where one would get a list of those members.
End Side Note***

Another thing that happened at the meeting last night was the decision to allow Stainbrook to utilize building fund monies to purchase a new headquarters. While the party may have the funds to purchase a building, their most recent financial reports indicate they do not have the funds to maintain one. I wonder if anyone at the meeting questioned the long-term plan for paying for the expenses of ownership(utilities, taxes, insurance) before they cast their vote in favor.

Stay tuned...

1 comment:

Hooda Thunkit said...

Stay tuned for the next episode of this seemingly never ending saga of "A Boy named Sue, Against the Republican World."

Sue IS Jon's REAL name, isn't it?

I mean, with his track record...

Oh, the stain (shame) of it all...

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