LIMA — Former Lima law director Richard Siferd filed a lawsuit Thursday in Allen County Common Please Court on behalf of Alice Donahue of 1175 W. High St., Lima, challenging the residency of Lima mayoral candidate Elizabeth Hardesty.
Named in the lawsuit were Hardesty, the Allen County Board of Elections, the Election Board members and the City of Lima.
While the Lima mayoral election is a non-partisan race — the two top vote-getters among the four candidates running in the May primary will advance to the General Election — the lawsuit lines up Democrats against a Republican. Siferd is a former Allen County Democratic Party chairman and Donahue is also a Democrat. Hardesty is a Republican.
The lawsuit argues the “Allen County Board of Elections wrongfully placed Hardesty on the ballot for the primary election and acted in clear disregard of applicable legal provisions,” according to a news release.
The lawsuit claims Hardesty actually resided the past 15 years in the following cities:
• Houston, Texas, from 2006-2010;
• Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from 2011-2015, where she purchased a home;
• Houston, Texas, from 2016 to the present.
Hardesty still considers Lima her “home” and used her mother’s house as an address on Lincoln Avenue to establish residency, allowing her to vote in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2020.
Hardesty issued a statement Thursday saying her lawyer will handle the lawsuit and that she “will continue to campaign to ensure Lima gets the real change it deserves.”
“There is no legal issue for me,” she said. “The question of residency has been asked and answered. The chairs of both the Republican and Democratic parties voted to confirm it.”
Hardesty believes her opponents’ teams keep repeating the question because they don’t like the answer they received in the Board of Elections proceedings. “Evidently, my candidacy poses a challenge to the status quo of doing the same thing for another 30 years. So they will keep asking the same question over and over in an attempt to bully me or anyone other than their ‘chosen one’ out of the race,” she said.
Hardesty, a Lima Senior High School graduate, emphasized her home is in Lima.
”My residency is in Lima, and with the support of Lima voters, I will become mayor of Lima and lead the city in a direction that is not “more of the same,” her statement read.
Hardesty had posted on her Facebook page that she “Lives in Houston, Texas” but that later was changed to Lima. In the now-deleted Facebook post on Jan. 17, she wrote, “For all you posting SNOW pictures, may I please remind you that us poor folks down in Houston are currently suffering with sunshine and 70 degrees! Happy Sunday!!!!”
She later wrote on her Facebook page, “I entered the oil and gas industry as an exploration geologist and have been a lead operations geologist on oil rigs throughout the US and Gulf of Mexico. As a respected geologist, I have held positions in the Houston Geological Society, AAPG and Young Professional Networks. I have always called Lima home and continue to live in the house my parents purchased when I was born.”
A hearing was held March 4 before the Allen County Board of Elections following a complaint filed by Lima resident Bart Mills concerning Hardesty’s residency, who contended Hardesty spent more time in Texas than Lima. The board ruled there was not enough evidence to keep Hardesty off the May primary ballot.
Keith Cheney, Allen County Board of Elections chairman, said at that time, “All of the evidence brought forth by Bart Mills was hearsay evidence. The evidence provided by Elizabeth Hardesty included a sworn affidavit, which does stand in a court of law.”
Cheney said the board’s ruling followed a quasi-judicial hearing, “which is by the rules of the Secretary of State’s policy and procedures, as well as the Ohio revised code.”
Neither Cheney or election’s board director Kathy Meyer wished to comment on the lawsuit.
At the last Lima Council meeting, councilor Peggy Ehora requested Tony Geiger, Lima’s current law director, look into the matter.
Prior to the lawsuit, Geiger said the way the process works is that the city establishes the qualifications for the position, which it has done in the charter by requiring the candidates to be residents of the city for a period of six months before the last date, the petition can be filed. In this case, that was roughly Aug. 4, 2020. “That’s the qualification with respect to residency,” Geiger said. “And then the city incorporates and utilizes the state law definition of what constitutes residency that the charter incorporates the state law. Now, whether or not a candidate is qualified, then becomes an election issue, which is handled by the (Allen County) Board of Elections, not by the city.”
Siferd pointed to the qualifications clearly stated in the Lima City Charter that require all Lima elected officials to be “residents and electors” of the City six months prior to the filing date for petitions, which was Feb. 3, 2021.
“The Lima City Charter is very clear. Ms. Hardesty admitted during the hearing that she had not been in Lima between August and October of 2020. She would have had to establish residency in Lima by August 3, 2020, to meet the requirement. Her first visit to Lima in 2020 was in mid-October. The bottom line is that she does not meet the qualifications set by the Charter and therefore does not qualify to serve as Lima’s mayor,” Siferd said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.