Gina Mace


CUYAHOGA FALLS: There could be a “do-over” vote by the Ward 3 Republican Central Committee to fill the vacant council seat.



Arden Barnhart was chosen May 21 over two other candidates to assume the council seat her husband, Ken Barnhart, had vacated.



On Tuesday, she went to what should have been her first official meeting, only to discover she would not be taking the oath — or the office.



Summit County Board of Elections Chairman Tim Gorbach said he discovered Friday that the ward’s central committee had conducted the vote by secret ballot.



Gorbach said a 2011 opinion by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says voting by secret ballot is not permitted in party central committee meetings where vacant public offices are filled.



DeWine cited decisions by Ohio courts, including the Supreme Court, that “repeatedly have endorsed a liberal reading of the open meetings law’s requirements in the interest of ensuring that the purpose of the law is upheld and preventing public bodies from evading that purpose.”



DeWine wrote that “voting by secret ballot is at variance with the purpose of the open meetings law and only denies the people their right to view and evaluate the workings of their government. Accordingly, a public body that is subject to the requirements of the Ohio open meetings law may not vote in an open meeting by secret ballot.”



A man who answered the phone at Summit County Republican Party headquarters Wednesday said they are working on the issue and will issue a statement in a day or two.



Gorbach said he told elections board Director Joe Masich to pass the information to Summit County Republican Party Chairman Alex Arshinkoff.



“I told him he might want to take a look at [DeWine’s opinion],” Gorbach said.



He also emailed Falls council President Don Walters.



On Tuesday, Walters told Barnhart she would not take her seat at the rail as Ward 3 council representative.



“I asked if she had been told, and she said she hadn’t,” Walters said.



He said the Republican party can have another meeting, with either a voice vote or show of hands. If Barnhart wins again, she can take the oath of office as early as the June 10 regular meeting of Falls council.