Court rejects sheriff candidate’s appeal
Unanimous decision finds Bobovnyik did not reside in Mahoning County
YOUNGSTOWN — The Ohio Supreme Court threw out an appeal from Douglas Bobovnyik to get on the ballot as an independent sheriff candidate determining the Mahoning County Board of Elections didn’t abuse its authority when it refused to certify him.
In a unanimous decision, the court ruled no evidence, besides Bobovnyik’s testimony at a May 26 elections board hearing, showed he lived in Austintown and not Salem, which is in Columbiana County.
A long list of requirements must be met for a candidate be eligible to run for sheriff, including establishing residency in the county for at least one year prior to filing for the position.
Bobovnyik signed a commercial lease for a used car lot at a Mahoning Avenue property in Austintown on March 1, 2019. He also owns a house on Shamrock Arbor Drive in Salem, his wife lives there full time, he spends time there and he is the sole owner of that property.
“The fact that Bobovnyik’s wife continues to reside in Columbiana County works against Bobovnyik’s mandamus claim and supports the board’s conclusion,” the court decision reads. “That alone makes it difficult for him to show, by clear and convincing evidence, that the board abused its discretion. But additional relevant factors also support the conclusion that the board didn’t abuse its discretion.”
That included, according to the court ruling, testimony at the May 26 board hearing from his stepdaughter and her husband that “they believe that Bobovnyik had been living in Columbiana County all along.”
The decision added: “Besides Bobovnyik’s own testimony, there is no evidence showing Bobovnyik was actually living in Mahoning County. In fact, his Austintown lease limited his use of the premises to commercial car-lot purposes.”
County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains, attorney for the board of elections, said: “The evidence was overwhelming that he was never a Mahoning County resident. The lease agreement was for the sole purpose of selling cars. I don’t know what his purpose was (to run), blind ambition.”
Gains said: “People have been playing fast and loose with these election laws, and you can’t do that. It’s serious business.”
Rick Brunner, one of Bobovnyik’s attorneys on the appeal, said: “We are exploring our options at this time and will make some decisions in the near future.”
Gains said Bobovnyik’s attorneys can file a motion for reconsideration with the court, “but I don’t think it would be successful because it was a unanimous decision.”
During the May 26 board of elections’ meeting, the four members unanimously voted not to certify Bobovnyik as a sheriff candidate because of the residency issue and because he never submitted a required criminal background check.
In a court filing, the prosecutor’s office also argued that Bobovnyik, a retired Youngstown police lieutenant, failed to provide proof of another requirement — a document showing that he is a U.S. citizen, has a high school diploma or equivalent, a valid peace officer certificate of training, proof of at least two years of supervisory experience or at least two years of post-secondary education.
The state Supreme Court wrote: “Because the board’s residency determination alone was sufficient to prevent Bobovnyik’s name from being placed on the ballot, we need not address the board’s additional determination that Bobovnyik failed to satisfy” the other requirements.
The only sheriff candidate on the November ballot is incumbent Jerry Greene, a Boardman Democrat.