The twists and turns included a last-ditch effort to get a residency hearing reset.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- After months of haggling over residency, Columbus attorney Percy Squire has withdrawn as independent candidate for mayor, leaving Mayor George M. McKelvey unopposed in November.
Squire announced his withdrawal via a one-line letter faxed to the Mahoning County Board of Elections about 4:30 p.m. Friday. The letter cites no explanation for the decision.
His Columbus lawyer, Donald J. McTigue, said Squire reluctantly withdrew "for a variety of reasons." McTigue said those reasons would likely be addressed next week, after the original withdrawal letter that was mailed to the board has been received and is considered official.
McKelvey responds: "I would only say that I respect his decision to withdraw and I continue to regard him as a fine gentleman," McKelvey said. "There's nothing more to say."
Squire; his wife, Carole Squire, a Franklin County juvenile judge; his two children; and his mother, who lives in Youngstown, had been subpoenaed to appear and testify Tuesday at board offices for a residency hearing, said Mark E. Munroe, board chairman. McKelvey, who through his lawyer Edwin Romero had protested Squire's candidacy, also received a subpoena.
Squire, who announced his candidacy in March, has acknowledged that he lives in Columbus, but said he also has a Kiwatha Road residence here, which made him eligible to run for mayor.
Endorsement challenge: The Vindicator reported in late March that Squire's interest in the mayor's race stemmed from McKelvey's failure to endorse Municipal Judge Robert A. Douglas Jr. for re-election. Douglas' challenger is Boardman Atty. Jeffrey Limbian, a former law director and former city prosecutor.
"Mayor McKelvey not endorsing Judge Douglas would be one of the primary reasons I would pursue the position of mayor," Squire said at the time. "If Mayor McKelvey didn't support Judge Douglas, that would be an indication to me that [McKelvey] shouldn't be elected to a second term. That's a big factor."
The judge is Squire's friend and former business partner.
The residency situation has bubbled for months in the press and on talk radio, with twists and turns the past few days.
Thursday morning, the elections board denied a request by McTigue to subpoena McKelvey's family members and others to the residency hearing. The board concluded the request had the appearance of harassment or retaliation -- what deputy director Tom McCabe considered "tit for tat."
Friday morning, McTigue filed a motion with the board asking that next week's hearing be reset pending a review by Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's office of the subpoena denial. He also wrote to Blackwell.
Munroe said board members had been in contact with Blackwell's office all along and thought their decision to deny the subpoenas was solid.
McTigue said he didn't think the residency hearing would have been fair without the witnesses he wanted.
In the case of McKelvey's family, McTigue wanted to question them about McKelvey's credibility, according to a letter Munroe wrote Friday morning to Blackwell.
McTigue also wanted Michaela Warren, a member of McKelvey's staff, to be subpoenaed. The lawyer suggested she may have a residency problem and may not live where she claims, according to Munroe's letter to Blackwell.
The board decided Squire's residency, not Warren's, was the issue for the hearing. "If there are questions surrounding Ms. Warren's residency, there are clearly defined procedures for challenging her," Munroe wrote.
Request moot: Squire's withdrawal from the race, however, had nothing to do with his not hearing back from Blackwell's office by 4:30 Friday, McTigue said. He said he did contact the office after Squire withdrew to let Blackwell know the request to review the subpoena denial was moot.
McTigue, a former North Sider and an Ursuline High School graduate, said he had been looking forward to coming to town Monday night. Munroe said he expected a busy weekend preparing for the public hearing.
The board could have made a decision Tuesday if members felt comfortable that no questions remained, he said. Otherwise, they would have taken the matter under advisement and then gathered again to discuss the case in public and come to a decision.
Although Squire's decision cancels the hearing Tuesday, if he intends to vote in Mahoning County, another hearing will be scheduled at some point, Munroe said.
McTigue said Squire's voter registration here is within the law. If it is challenged down the road, they'll deal with it then.