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The Suburbanite
  • Attorneys for Stark Dems say court shouldn't restrict sheriff application process

  • Attorneys for the Stark County Democratic Party and its chairman have asked the Ohio Supreme Court to deny Interim Sheriff Timothy Swanson's request to limit the Democrats' vote for the new sheriff to only the two candidates who qualified for the post in February.
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  • Much could have changed in the past 10 months since Stark County Democrats first selected a new county sheriff, say attorneys for the county Democratic party and its chairman.
    Who is to say the two men deemed qualified for sheriff in February still will be qualified when Democrats meet next week to appoint a new sheriff? Maybe the candidates now live outside Stark County. Maybe they have committed a crime.
    "This could lead to the absurd and dangerous result that the only persons 'qualified' to be sheriff could be persons who live in other counties or who have been convicted of crimes," wrote attorneys Steven P. Okey and Warren P. Price on behalf of the Stark County Democratic Party and chairman Randy Gonzalez.
    The two attorneys asked the Ohio Supreme Court Monday to deny a request by acting Sheriff Timothy Swanson and Sheriff Lt. Louis Darrow to compel the party to appoint Darrow as sheriff. Darrow, considered the second-in-command at the sheriff's office, finished eight votes behind George Maier when the Democratic Party's central committee met Feb. 5 to fill the vacancy left by Sheriff-elect Michael A. McDonald, who resigned before taking office in January due to a terminal illness. Finishing third with a single vote in February was Republican Lawrence Dordea, chief of the Hartville Police Department.
    The central committee is set to meet Dec. 11 to select a new sheriff after the Supreme Court ruled Nov. 6 that the committee's previous choice, Maier, didn't meet the legal qualifications to hold the post.
    LEGAL MERITS
    In Monday's 19-page filing, Okey and Price say they believe the Supreme Court wanted the central committee to be able to consider new applications submitted by Maier, Darrow, Dordea, as well as any new prospective candidates. Otherwise, the court would not have ordered the party to make the appointment, they said.
    They added that the attorneys for Swanson and Darrow also failed to prove that the Supreme Court holds the appropriate jurisdiction to grant their request.
    Attorney Greg Beck, who represents Swanson and Darrow, said Gonzalez and the Democratic Party fails to provide the legal basis to support their belief that a new vacancy occurred when the court ousted Maier. He maintains the ouster did not create a new vacancy, so no new application process is warranted.
    "Logically, if there is no new vacancy, how is it fair to allow new applicants to the detriment of those who lawfully applied?" Beck asked. "... The effort to create a new vote is only to benefit Mr. Maier, not the process."
    Maier, now working as a full-time deputy for the Harrison County Sheriff's Office, plans to reapply for the sheriff appointment and believes his time in Harrison County fulfills the qualifications the Supreme Court said he previously lacked. Douglas Smith, a lieutenant for the Summit County Sheriff's Office, also has begun the application process for the sheriff's appointment. Smith said Monday that an attorney is reviewing whether he should get involved with the ongoing lawsuit.
    Page 2 of 2 - Reach Kelli at 330-580-8339 or kelli.young@cantonrep.com.
    On Twitter: @kyoungREP