Friday, July 3, 2015



UPDATED:  08:35 AM

On May 4, 2015 Stark County Commissioner Thomas M. Bernabei - a lifelong Democrat - voted "issues only" in the May 5, 2015 Stark County primary election.

And on the same day, he filed petitions with the Stark County Board of Elections to run as an "independent" candidate of either the Democratic, Republican or any other organized political party.

Yesterday, July 2, 2015 at about 4:00 p.m. Bernabei's Cleveland based attorney (Raymond V. Vasvari, Jr.), just two days in advance of the celebration of Independence Day of the United States of America, filed a brief articulating legal arguments  as to why Bernabei's actions in the week leading up to May 4, 2015 were effective as a matter of law to change his legal status from being a Democrat to that of being an "independent" registered voter.

On May 29th, well known and highly respected Canton attorney Lee Plakas filed a protest to Bernabei running as an "independent" the representing the Stark County Democratic Party, the Ohio Democratic Party and seven of Canton City Council's eleven Democratic councilpersons including Plakas law associate Edmond Mack (Ward 8) and included in the filing a voluminous legal brief on his take on the relevant issues of the case.

A mere two days - July 6, 2015 - after America's July 4th Independence Day celebration of separating from Great Britain, Cantonians will learn whether or not the Stark County Board of Elections (BOE, Board) thinks Commissioner Tom Bernabei has successfully (i.e. in accordance with Ohio statutory law) declared his political separation from the Democratic Party.

For the board members who are allowed to sit in judgement (Democratic members Sam Ferruccio, Jr. and William V. Sherer are under challenge by Bernabei), the issues are, as articulated in the Vasvari brief:

a) did Tom Bernabei resign his positions in the Democratic Party, and announce his status as an Independent candidate for Mayor of Canton, in good faith, and; 

(b) was Tom Bernabei a lawful resident in the City of Canton when his petitions to run as a
mayoral candidate were filed?

It will however be interesting to see how Vasvari proceeds at the BOE hearing which is set to begin at 09:00 a.m. at the Board's offices located at 3525 Regent Avenue in Canton.


The Report thinks he is likely to challenge the right of Ferruccio and Sherer to participate as the first order of business.

Though Plakas has notified the BOE that the Stark Democratic Party as a Protester has been rescinded, Vasvari in his July 2nd filing says that the withdrawal of the Stark Dems does not solve the Ferruccio and Sherer conflict in interest problem.

For if a determination is made that Ferruccio and Sherer will not participate, such is probably going to make all the difference in the world in the outcome.

The Report thinks it is likely that the Republican members are going to find legal justification that Bernabei made the necessary disaffiliations and did so in good faith and that he had established a Canton residency before filing his petitions to run for mayor of Canton whereas the Democrats are likely to find the opposite.

If the Democrats are excluded, then one would think that the BOE will certify Bernabei and it will then be on to the Ohio Supreme Court.

If the Democrats are not excluded, it is likely that there will be a 2 to 2 tie and Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted will break it likely in Bernabei's favor.

But either way Husted rules, an Ohio Supreme Court appeal is surely in the offing.

As we learned when Husted broke a tie in favor of George T. Maier on his certification as a 2014 candidate for sheriff, it is better to go into a Supreme Court proceeding as a BOE winner than a loser if the high court uses an "abuse of discretion" standard as it did in Maier.

However, Vasvari in his BOE brief in opposition to the protest raises a powerful First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution argument which probably means that a Ohio Supreme Court appeal will be decided not on an "abuse of discretion" basis but rather on a Constitutional law basis.

One more thing.

Should the July 6th hearing result in Ferruccio and Sherer not being recused, Bernabei/Vasvari have preserved said refusal as a basis for appeal.

Now wouldn't a remand by the Ohio Supreme Court to the Stark BOE for rehearing without Ferruccio and Sherer participating be something?

Stark County once again in the news on less than an auspicious basis, no?

Here is a copy of the brief in opposition to the protest filed by Attorney Vasvari yesterday.

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