LIMA — The candidacy of Elizabeth Hardesty has been upheld, and her name will appear on the Nov. 2 general election ballot as one of two hopefuls seeking to become Lima’s next mayor.
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 challenged Hardesty’s legal residency. 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.
Judge James Brogan, a retired judge of the Second District Court of Appeals who was appointed by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor to preside over the civil lawsuit, on Wednesday ruled that the complainants failed to demonstrate that the Board of Elections abused its discretion in placing Hardesty’s name on the ballot.
The board ruled 3-1 following a hearing held March 4 that Hardesty met the legal definition as a Lima citizen. The hearing was requested by Lima resident Bart Mills, who filed a protest in writing in objection to Hardesty’s status as a qualified elector in the city of Lima.
The issue at the hearing was whether Hardesty qualified for candidacy under Section 72 of the city charter, which requires all elected officers of the city to be residents and electors for at least six months before the last date on which nominating petitions can be filed. That date this year was Feb. 3, meaning Hardesty had to be a resident back to Aug. 3, 2020.
Hardesty filed an affidavit saying she’d always considered Lima her permanent address.
“Over the past 15 years, my employment as an Exploration Geologist has required my absence from my permanent residence for periods of time, both short and long, but I have always intended and have always returned to my permanent residence in Lima, Ohio,” Hardesty wrote in the affidavit.
Responding to the court ruling, Hardesty said in a press release that she was pleased with Brogan’s decision.
“I have every legal right to be on the ballot for the next mayor of Lima,” she said. “And I am.”
Hardesty said she plans to move “full steam ahead” with her campaign.
As the parties in the civil case took turns filing numerous back-and-forth motions, the May 4 special election came and went. Sharetta Smith finished first in the four-way race, capturing more than 52% of the vote. Hardesty finished second with 34%. In third place, Joshua Hayes had 8.8% of the votes, while Autumn Swanson was fourth with 4.2%.
Brogan, in his ruling, said that by not challenging Hardesty’s qualifications in a timely manner prior to the special election, “the relators are foreclosed now from challenging her candidacy for the general election.”
The names of Smith and Hardesty will now appear on the November ballot.