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Ohio Supreme Court rules Stark sheriff qualifies for May ballot

By Nancy Molnar
Special to the Beacon Journal

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The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Stark County Sheriff George T. Maier may appear on the May 6 primary election ballot.

The court denied a challenge to a decision by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted that broke a tie vote in the county elections board over whether Maier, a Democrat from Massillon, met the qualifications contained in state law.

At issue was whether Maier had either two years of post-secondary education or two years of recent supervisory experience above the rank of corporal in law enforcement.

The state high court credited Maier with supervisory experience in three jobs: as sheriff since Dec. 11, as safety-service director of Massillon and as assistant director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

“The highest-ranking officer of the Highway Patrol, a colonel, reported to Maier,” the justices wrote. “At the city of Massillon, both the chief of police and the fire chief reported to him.

“Although Maier was not himself a ranked officer in these positions, he was supervising officers well above the rank of corporal, so it is clear that this experience satisfies the statutory requirement.”

Six justices concurred in the opinion denying the challenge to Husted’s decision. Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger concurred in the judgment only.

The protest against Maier’s candidacy had been filed by Massillon Democrat Cynthia Balas-Bratton. Her attorney is Craig Conley of Canton.

In a brief filed with the court, Conley wrote that Husted “did not affirmatively decide the issue before him one way or the other.”

Husted had written, in part, “While I am not confident that Mr. Maier meets the legal qualifications in the Ohio Revised Code, I am also unable to clearly conclude that he does not. Given the law and the facts in this case, I choose to err on the side of ballot access.”

In seeking to have Husted’s decision overturned, Conley wrote that the secretary of state “admitted to erring” in allowing Maier on the ballot.

Nancy Molnar can be reached at nancymolnar2002@yahoo.com.


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