ORIGINALLY POSTED AT 5:25 P.M. YESTERDAY
At 3:52 p.m. today, Steve Okey filed a protest with the Stark County Board of Elections (BOE) on behalf of four Massillonians challenging former Democratic mayor Frank Cicchinelli's right to switch from being a Democrat for all of his life to being an independent so that he can challenge sitting Democratic mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry in November's general election.
At 10:04 a.m this morning, the BOE received a Memorandum in Support of Certification from Cicchinelli's attorney Craig T. Conley.
Though Okey's protest brief does not hold a candle to the one Lee Plakas filed:
- on behalf of the Stark County Democratic Party,
- the Ohio Democratic Party, and
- seven of Canton's Democratic council members,
- which did not include members Babcock, Smuckler (all at-large), and Greg Hawk (Ward 1), and Jim Griffin (Ward 3),
So it is obvious that the protest of Cicchinelli's independent run has been in the works for some time.
Accordingly, the only thing likely to happen later this morning on the Cicchinelli matter at the 8:30 a.m. certification meeting (for all November independent candidacies) is for the BOE to set a protest hearing date like it already has on the Bernabei matter which is July 6, 2015 beginning a 09.00 a.m.
For all independent candidates switching from either the Republican or Democratic parties to independent, July 30th is the last day for filing a protest.
Here is a copy of the Conley memorandum.
Conley says that he thinks his client Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr has a much more tenable legal position that he made the switch in "good faith" than does Bernabei.
It appears that Okey tried to model his brief after Plakas but there is one huge glaring difference.
The last plausible "consistent with being a Democrat" act by Cicchinelli that Okey cites in January 31, 2015 which was signing a petition of a Democratic candidate.
Plakas on the other hand has Bernabei scurrying around breaking ties with Stark Democratic Party organizations and candidates virtually up to the brink of filing as a independent candidate on May 4, 2015; the day before the Democratic/Republican primaries of May 5th.
Another intriguing difference between Okey and Plakas is that Plakas is being paid for his legal work by Democratic party organizations whereas it is hard to tell about Okey.
It could be that the Stark and/or Ohio "organized" Democratic Parties are paying Okey, too. But Okey is playing coy with the SCPR, to wit:
From: Martin Olson [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, June 08, 2015 12:08 PM
To: Steve Okey
I have heard that you have retained by Kathy Catazaro-Perry to represent her in filing a protest to Frank Cicchinelli's candidacy as an "independent" candidate for mayor.
Accurate or inaccurate?
If accurate, when do you anticipate that the protest will be filed?
Steve Okey Jun 8
To: Martin Olson
The Rules of Professional Conduct prevent a lawyer from revealing information relating to the representation of a client, and at this time I am unable to either confirm or deny your inquiry.
In time, who is paying Okey for legal service rendered on the protest will come out.
Could Okey be doing the protest pro bono?
Another difference between the Okey/Plakas effort is that there are five Democrats on Massillon City Council and yet only one (Stinson, a lame duck councilman from Ward 4 who lost in the May 4th Democratic primary) or 20% of the five signed on to the protest.
The Bernabei protest on the other hand has 63% of the sitting eleven Democratic Canton City Council members signed on as protesters; all of whom will be re-elected.
Tony Townsend is council president but he does not vote unless there is a tie among those voting of total membership of nine.
Interesting enough, the SCPR sees Townsend as a likely loser in the November general election if former Republican Istnick makes it to the ballot as guess what?
You've got it: an independent!
In 2013, the SCPR thinks that Massillon clerk of courts Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. (a former Stark Dems' chairman) and his chief deputy Shane Jackson (Stark Dems political director) "saved Townsend's 'political' bacon."
Townsend became the appointee-president of the Massillon Democrat Central Committee members when Glenn Gamber stepped down early.
Townsend was ticketed for a sure defeat when former Massillon City Schools superintendent took out a petition to run as a Republican for Massillon City Council president.
Then - when it was too late for Republicans to replace him, Hennon abruptly quit the race and became safety-service director for Kathy Catazaro-Perry who The Report figures in the puppet of Maier, Jr. and Jackson.
In hindsight (Hennon only lasted a little over a year), don't you think he now regrets what appears to having been play a fool by Maier, Jr. and Jackson?
To repeat, this time around, Townsend's only hope is Claudette Istnick (formerly a Ward 3 Republican councilwoman) not being certified as qualifying to run as an independent.