SEBRING County board votes on referendum
Village officials want to tear down the building and replace it with a parking lot.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A decision on whether Sebring residents can seek to overturn a village council decision to demolish the former downtown civic center building is in the hands of the Ohio Secretary of State.
The Mahoning County Board of Elections voted 2-2 Thursday on the validity of the referendum request. All elections board ties are resolved by the secretary of state.
At question is the right of Sebring residents to vote on a Feb. 11 decision by village council to authorize the demolition of the former civic center building on North 15th Street to make way for a parking lot.
Those opposing the demolition say the former civic center is a historic building in the village. Those wanting to take it down say it is a dilapidated structure that will be too costly to repair, and that downtown Sebring is in desperate need of parking spaces.
Sebring officials say the referendum petition is invalid for a variety of reasons, including the village charter does not permit referendum votes on capital improvement projects, and the petition did not contain the proper state law detailing the penalty election falsification, making the petition fatally flawed.
The petitions state election falsification is a misdemeanor when it should state it is a felony, said An drew L. Zumbar, the village's assistant solicitor who represented Sebring at the elections board hearing.
How they voted
Board Chairman Mark Munroe, a Republican, and member Michael Morley, a Democrat, voted to reject the petition because of the failure to state that election falsification is a felony on the petition. Munroe said the two voted that way after consulting with an official at the secretary of state's office, who told the board that omission makes the petition invalid.
Voting to accept the petition were board member Clarence Smith, a Republican, and Bob Wasko, a Democrat.
It was revealed during Thursday's hearing that Kenneth Cardinal of Sebring, an assistant county prosecutor, circulated petitions and obtained a signature from Jean Bingham, who incorrectly signed her husband's name instead of hers. Her husband, Grover, also signed the petition.
Cardinal, the lead prosecutor in three high-profile cases involving former candidates charged with election falsification, said he did nothing illegal by failing to notice Bingham's error.
Zumbar agreed Cardinal's mistake was unintentional. But in a letter to the elections board, Zumbar questioned how Cardinal with all his prosecutorial experience could make such an error. The signature of Bingham by his wife was ruled invalid.
"I checked it, but I didn't look to see if she signed Mrs. [Grover Bingham] or Jean; my mistake," Cardinal said.