The Mahoning County Board of Elections has disqualified Pete Ceci’s petitions to be a county commissioner candidate, leaving Carol Rimedio-Righetti, the incumbent Democrat, without a primary opponent.
The board voted 4-0 Tuesday, after a three-plus-hour hearing, to invalidate a petition for Ceci with 14 valid signatures on it because Danielle M. Hamill of Youngstown, who collected the names, testified that she didn’t witness the number of signatures in the “circulator’s affidavit” portion of the document. The board considered that an error that disqualified those signatures.
Ceci of Boardman had 60 valid signatures. With Hamill’s petition disqualified, he had 46 and needed 50 to remain a candidate.
Ceci said after the meeting that the board’s decision was “business as usual.” He talked of filing an appeal, but then offered to help Rimedio-Righetti’s campaign.
Rimedio-Righetti of Youngstown will run unopposed for her second — and what she said is her last — term unless Ceci files and wins an appeal. The filing deadline for independents is May 5, a day before the primary.
The hearing started with Hamill and Ernest Beachman, her boyfriend who also circulated petitions for Ceci, not showing up, despite receiving subpoenas to testify. The board sent county sheriff’s deputies to their home to get the couple. They showed up almost two hours later; Beachman said they had a flat tire in Ashtabula, causing the delay.
The protest was filed by Mark Cleland Sr. of Austintown, a longtime friend of Rimedio-Righetti’s, with Donald McTigue, a Youngstown native whose Columbus practice specializes in election law, as his attorney.
Beachman and Hamill said Joseph Rafidi, an insurance agent who resigned from practicing law in 2009, and Holly Hanni, an attorney, asked them to gather signatures for Ceci, whom they had never met, for $20 each.
Beachman and Hamill admitted Tuesday they didn’t read the circulator’s affidavit on Ceci’s nominating petitions. Hamill said she highly doubted the number of signatures on the petition written by Hanni was on the paper when she signed it — which the board considered grounds to invalidate her petition.
Beachman said he saw the number of signatures, but didn’t read the affidavit section. The board voted 2-2 on his disqualification. The Democrats — Robert Wasko and county Democratic Party Chairman David Betras, who is being challenged by Ceci for precinct committeeman — voted to disqualify Beachman’s petition with 9 valid signatures, while the Republicans — county GOP Chairman Mark Munroe and Tracey Winbush — disagreed.
Also Tuesday, the board certified a Youngstown citizen-initiative charter amendment to ban fracking in the city for the May 6 ballot. The Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee collected 2,108 signatures, with 1,477 of them deemed valid The amendment needed 1,126 valid signatures. Youngstown voters rejected the amendment twice last year.