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State high court nixes Falls recall

Ruling states 2-1-1 council vote did not equal majority

NEWTON FALLS — The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled a recall election for 4th Ward Councilwoman Sandra Breymaier should not take place because of a lack of votes by village council to set the date.

The special election was to take place June 1, but early voting already has begun and was to continue through Monday.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday although only four council members were present for the May 10 council meeting when the date was set, three affirmative votes were needed. Only two affirmative votes were cast by John Baryak and Tesa Spletzer. Breymaier abstained and Adam Zimmerman voted no.

Tarry Alberini already had resigned his seat. Mayor Kenneth Kline ruled the motion had passed.

Village Law Director A. Joseph Fritz, clerk Kathleen M. King and Breymaier filed a complaint May 18 with the state Supreme Court against the Trumbull County Board of Elections and its four board members to stop the June 1 recall election.

“The Newton Falls council did not pass the motion to fix June 1, 2021, as the date of the recall election. The motion failed for want of one vote. The board has a legal duty to reject a measure that does not comply with ballot-access requirements and to prohibit its placement on the ballot. Accordingly, we grant relators a writ of mandamus ordering the board to remove the issue of Breymaier’s recall from the June 1, 2021, special-election ballot,” the Supreme Court’s ruling states.

Stephanie Penrose, executive director of the Trumbull County Board of Elections, said Thursday evening she had not seen the ruling, but said people already have voted.

“We will consult with the board’s prosecutor to discuss the ramifications of this ruling and what the next steps are to take,” Penrose said.

Kline said he was surprised by the ruling because he thought it was a “no-brainer” the recall vote was valid.

“I am not a lawyer and I don’t know all of the ins and outs on this matter, but if someone abstains from voting, they have chosen not to vote so their vote doesn’t count. That is what Robert’s Rules of Order states, but the Supreme Court sees it differently,” Kline said.

He said what bothers him more than the court ruling is the fact the filing was a waste of time because the recall election will happen at some point — it’s just a matter of when. He said the recall must be set by July 8, which is just more than a month away.

“The people who filed this complaint with the Supreme Court should have deep pockets to pay for this because the village is not going to pay for it. There are more important things for us to spend taxpayer money on,” Kline said.

Fritz said he was pleased the Supreme Court verified his opinion.

“Now the mayor has clear and definitive guidance for future votes on city business,” he said in an email.

A call to Breymaier was not returned.

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