LIMA – Maureen O’Connor, chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, on Tuesday appointed James Brogan, a retired judge of the Second District Court of Appeals, to preside in the Allen County Court of Common Pleas in the case of Alice Donahue v. Elizabeth Hardesty and the Allen County Board of Elections.
Former Lima law director Richard Siferd filed a lawsuit April 1 in Allen County Common Pleas Court on behalf of Lima resident Alice Donahue that challenges the legal residency of Lima mayoral candidate Elizabeth Hardesty. Named as respondents in the lawsuit were Hardesty, the Allen County Board of Elections, Director Kathy Meyer, individual board members and the City of Lima.
An April 13 filing in the case removed Meyer and the City of Lima from the suit. That revision came after Lima City Law Director Anthony Geiger and Allen County Prosecuting Attorney Juergen Waldick, representing Meyer and the election board, filed responses to Donahue’s suit asking that the matter be dismissed in its entirety.
Another amendment to the complaint added the name of Bart Mills, 1225 State St., Lima, as a petitioner.
Residency is primary issue
The lawsuit alleges Hardesty resided the past 15 years in Houston and Pittsburgh and therefore is not legally eligible to hold the position as Lima’s mayor under the terms of the city’s charter.
On April 19 Siferd filed his response to requests for dismissal. In that document Siferd alleges and alleged that Hardesty “concealed material and dispositive facts” from the election board concerning her residency and that the board “made a clear mistake and abused its discretion in approving her candidacy” during a hearing earlier this year.
The suit also alleges Hardesty has never paid city or state income tax and has not filed a city tax return.
Siferd concluded by stating that Hardesty “should be precluded from accepting any nomination for the office of mayor of the City of Lima should she be elected in the primary election, and should otherwise be determined to not be eligible to hold the office of mayor of the City of Lima, Ohio.”
A hearing was held March 4 before the Allen County Board of Elections following a complaint filed by Mills concerning Hardesty’s residency. The board, in a 3-1 vote, ruled Hardesty’s candidacy to be valid.
In a document filed Tuesday with the Allen County Clerk of Court’s Office, Hardesty’s attorney addressed several allegations made in the suit, including her alleged non-payment of city and state taxes.
The response states that Hardesty “has paid income taxes in different cities and states and is currently working with the City of Lima to determine what, if any, additional city income tax is due the City of Lima.”
Hardesty also denied allegations that she has not paid the appropriate state income taxes required.
Addressing residency issues raised in the suit, Hardesty reaffirmed her position that she has been a resident of Lima for 20 years. She said, through her attorney, that “regardless of any casual conversation, including social media posts, that reference any temporary ‘homes’ where she stayed during her long absences from her residence in Lima, she always intended to return to her residence in Lima ….”
The names of four mayoral candidates will appear on the May 4 special election ballot. The top two vote-getters will square off in November. Candidates in addition to Hardesty include Joshua Hayes, Sharetta Smith and Autumn Swanson.
Hayes stresses urgency
Hayes on Wednesday issued a statement addressing the lawsuit. He said that with the election now less than two weeks away and with early voting underway it is imperative that any ruling on the suit be made quickly.
“We want to make it very clear that we respect the decision of the courts and by issuing this statement we are not picking sides or lobbying for any particular outcome,” Hayes said. “At this time, in order to protect the integrity of this election for all voters and candidates, we urge the courts to make a decision in this matter in the next few days. I call on my fellow candidates and community leaders to do the same.”