Elections board plans funding suit

The board wants an additional $336,125; the commissioners say they don't have it.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County commissioners approved a resolution Thursday that will allow themselves to be sued by the elections board.
The resolution states the commission will join with the county prosecutor to file an application for a third-party lawyer. A third-party lawyer is needed for the elections board because the county prosecutor normally represents both the county commission and the board.
Suing for funding
The elections board seeks to sue the commission for more funding. Elections officials have said they need an additional $336,125 this year to have two elections. Tom McCabe, elections board deputy director, has said the board needs $190,000 alone for the May primary.
The elections board requested $1.2 million for 2005, but received $900,000.
McCabe said the board has met twice with the commissioners to arrive at a settlement to no avail.
"We will now let the courts mediate the issue," he said.
He said now that the resolution has been approved, it will go to the common pleas court administrator, who will show it to the common pleas judges.
The judges have the discretion to authorize the board to employ outside legal counsel in which the expenditure of county funds is or may be involved. Once the authorization is given, McCabe said the elections board will file its suit.
By law, the prosecutor represents the commissioners in litigation, but the prosecutor also represents other county offices in lawsuits as well. Since the prosecutor cannot represent the commissioners and the board, outside counsel is needed.
The board intends to hire Atty. Donald J. McTigue of Columbus at a rate of $250 an hour. The total estimated cost for his services is $17,000.
That means the commissioners will pay an attorney to sue them, and if the board prevails, they will have to come up with $336,125 for the board.
The commissioners have appropriated the entire $39.9 million they are certified to spend this year. They have said no additional money is forthcoming, so they have no more money to give this year.
That means some other county office or offices will likely have funds taken from their already tight budgets to give the elections board its money.
Special circumstances
Elections officials have said that when commissioners decided in February to put the five-year, half-percent sales tax on the primary ballot, that meant the board needed to fund a countywide primary.
This is an off-year election, and a countywide May primary was not figured in the board's 2005 budget.
McCabe said the elections board would use money planned for the November election to take care of the expenses associated with the May primary.
Commissioners have said the loss of the half-percent sales tax, which expired last year, has created the fiscal crisis that has resulted in layoffs of county employees and reduced services for taxpayers.
The tax brought in between $12 million and $14 million a year, or about one-third of the general fund budget. Voters twice rejected renewing the tax last year.

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