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Falls official challenging election result

NEWTON FALLS — In a twist of events, incumbent 3rd Ward Councilman Lyle Waddell has filed a lawsuit challenging the result of the Nov. 3 election.

His challenger, Tesa Spletzer, received 67 percent of the vote, while Waddell received 33 percent, according to complete and official numbers from the Trumbull County Board of Elections.

According to the lawsuit, Waddell claims the charter of Newton Falls requires the election for an unexpired term to take place at the next general election — which would be November 2021 in this case — therefore invalidating Spletzer’s victory.

The charter states: “Any vacancy in the office of Councilman shall be filled within 60 days by a majority vote of the remaining Councilmen… The individual filling the vacancy shall be appointed only until a general election is held.”

In October 2019, Waddell stepped down as mayor to fill the then-vacant 3rd Ward seat after Mark Stimpert stepped down to become the zoning director earlier that year.

The lawsuit continues, stating “Being the board of elections has no jurisdiction or power to override the wishes of the voter approved charter of the Village of Newton Falls, the election of Spletzer, as declared by the board of elections, is therefore invalid and Lyle Waddell remains the duly constituted Ward 3 councilman until the general election of November 2021 can take place.”

In matters like this, the board of elections defers to the county prosecutor. According to Trumbull County Assistant Prosecutor Bill Danso and a representative from the board of elections, neither party was made aware of the newly filed lawsuit, but will review it once the lawsuit is received.

The elections board determined in October 2019 the seat would be on the 2021 ballot — only to change its mind a month later to put it on in 2020 based on Newton Falls Law Director Joseph Fritz’s legal opinion, which was initially rejected.

The entire election was plagued by controversy from the beginning with Waddell’s jump from mayor to the vacant 3rd Ward seat. Several contested Waddell’s move, but it was upheld by the board, citing lack of clarity in the charter.

nhawthorne@tribtoday.com

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