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SEBRING Ohio secretary of state determines referendum request is invalid



Published: Sat, September 21, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The petition was fatally flawed because it did not include the proper language concerning the penalty for election falsification.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

SEBRING -- Sebring residents won't be voting Nov. 5 on whether to overturn a village council decision to demolish the former downtown civic center building.

Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell broke a 2-2 tie among Mahoning County Board of Elections members concerning the validity of the referendum request. His vote effectively took the issue off the ballot.

A group of Sebring residents filed a petition with the election board in March calling for a referendum vote on the Nov. 5 ballot to overturn a Feb. 11 decision by village council authorizing the demolition of the building on North 15th Street to make way for a parking lot.

Andrew L. Zumbar, the village's assistant solicitor, filed a protest with the elections board March 27 on behalf of Teddy Ryan, village manager, objecting to the referendum petition. Zumbar said the petition was invalid for a variety of reasons, including the document did not include the proper state law detailing the penalty for election falsification, making it fatally flawed.

The petition lists election falsification as a misdemeanor offense when it should have been a felony.

Elections board vote

The county elections board voted 2-2 on Aug. 8 on the issue with board Chairman Mark Munroe and member Michael Morley voting to reject the petition, and board members Clarence Smith and Bob Wasko voting to accept the petition. The vote was taken after a public hearing on the issue and after Munroe spoke to a Secretary of State's Office official, who told him the petition should be rejected.

All county election board ties are broken by Blackwell. He ruled that the referendum request cannot be placed on the November ballot because of the fatal flaw.

Those opposed to the demolition say the former civic center is a historical building. Those wanting to take it down counter that the structure is dilapidated, too expensive to be repaired, and the village's downtown needs additional parking spaces.

skolnick@vindy.com




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