By jeanne starmack
A candidate for Campbell council president can stay on the ballot in the November general election, the Mahoning County elections board decided.
The board decided unanimously at a hearing Monday to allow George J. Levendis, a first-time candidate for office, to stay on the ballot against incumbent Juanita Rich.
Rich, who has held the post since January, had protested Levendis’ candidacy on the grounds that he indicated on his petition he is running for “president of council” instead of “council president.”
“These are different positions that have different powers,” Rich’s attorney John Juhasz told the board. “President of council,” he and Rich said, is a position that was abolished in 1971 in the city’s home-rule charter.
Juhasz also said Rich is protesting that Levendis did not indicate an ending date for the term he is seeking, in accordance with Ohio law.
Levendis put “full term” on his petition.
Board of Elections Director Thomas McCabe said that a Supreme Court decision indicates a candidate has to put an ending date on his petition if he is running for an expired term.
Attorney Michael Maillis, who represented Levendis, said that voters would not be confused by the wording on the petition because there is only one position.
“We should encourage citizens to run,” Maillis said, “and not use technicalities to prohibit them from being in service.”
Rich and Juhasz argued that there are differences between the positions of “council president,” and “president of council.” The council president can vote on all legislation, she said, but the president of council only voted to break a tie.
“How did you find out he was running against you?” Maillis asked Rich.
“When he filed,” she replied.
“So you knew he was running against you,” Maillis said.
“I think he thought he was,” Rich said. “But he didn’t understand the charter.”
But the board was not convinced that voters would be confused by the wording on Levendis’ petition.
“Very rarely do we knock somebody off the ballot for what could be a technicality,” said board member Michael Morley.
“I don’t find the petition to be ambiguous, because there is only one office,” said board member Mark Munroe.
He moved to disallow the protest, and Morley seconded the motion.
“He is running for a position that no longer exists,” Rich said after the hearing. “I’m very disappointed the board felt they were able to take away the rights of the citizens of Campbell,” she said.
“You need to know the charter,” she continued. “It has to be your bible. You need to know it and it’s clear he does not.”
Levendis said he’s glad “the citizens of Campbell get to decide who will be the next president of council.”
“I’m sorry we had to waste money on attorneys for something that trivial,” he said.