Fayette County Board of Elections validates Kim Bonnell’s petition following protest

The validity of Kimberlee Bonnell’s petition to run for another term on Washington C.H. City Council was upheld Thursday after another city council candidate made a case to invalidate a signature on the petition.

Caleb Johnson, one of five individuals running for four open slots on the city council in the November general election, filed a protest on Friday, Aug. 25 against Bonnell’s petition. Johnson claimed that one of the 50 individuals who signed Bonnell’s petition did not write the correct date beside her signature and questioned whether it was a valid signature entirely.

“The Date of Signing indicated on the petition line next to Susan Spears’s supposed signature is not the date on which Susan Spears’s signature was affixed to the petition, if affixed at all, and thus should not have been validated by the Fayette County Board of Elections,” Johnson, of 411 Cloverleaf Lane, wrote in his complaint. “The invalidation of one more signature on the petition will make Kimberlee Martin Bonnell ineligible to be on the ballot for the upcoming general election to be held on November 7th, 2017.”

After hearing testim0ny from both Bonnell and Johnson during a hearing Thursday at the Fayette County Board of Elections office, the board was not swayed from their original certification of Bonnell’s petition. The board, which consists of Robin Beekman, Judy Craig, Dan Roberts and Sue Raypole, voted 4-0 on a motion that stated Bonnell had the requisite and valid amount of signatures. Fayette County Assistant Prosecutor Dan Drake provided legal direction during the protest hearing.

On Bonnell’s petition, three members of the same family with the same residence provided their signatures. However, two family members signed the petition with a corresponding Aug. 9 date and Susan Spears signed it with a date of Aug. 8. Susan Spears’s “date of signing” also was not in chronological order as her signature was listed after the signatures of two individuals who signed Bonnell’s petition on Aug. 9.

“This is surely not about the integrity of Kim Bonnell,” Johnson said at Thursday’s hearing. “Councilwoman Bonnell has been great to me and as far as I can tell to other people throughout. My challenge is simply about the integrity of the law as it stands as written and making sure that we uphold it. As I turned in my own petition, I asked the board when the certification would happen and in doing so, I let them know that I would like copies of all petitions to check and see if there were any irregularities at all that weren’t seen and should have been seen. In doing so I found a few and checked into them. But the one that ended up standing out the most was the one where issues would have brought a candidate below the threshold for signatures, with of course the threshold being 50.”

According to the Ohio Revised Code, each signer of election petitions must include the date of signing and the location of the signer’s voting residence, including the street and number if in a municipal corporation or the rural route number, post office address, or township if outside a municipal corporation.

Bonnell responded to the protest of her petition by explaining why Spears provided the incorrect date when she signed the petition.

“Susan Spears did sign this and she will attest to that,” Bonnell said. “When I got signatures from the Spears family, I went to their place of business. Susan signed it first and during that time she was sitting doing receipt paperwork for her business. She told me the likely reason she signed the wrong date was because before she signed it, she had written the date of 8/8 about 100 times before as she was dealing with the paperwork. She did not intentionally do it.”

Following the hearing, Bonnell told the Record-Herald that she took exception to Johnson’s protest and added that his reasons for filing it were not about upholding the integrity of the law.

“This was little and spiteful,” Bonnell said. “We have to trust that the board of elections did their job, and that the director (Beth Ann Snyder) and deputy director (Karla Morrison) did their due diligence in certifying my petitions. It has been reported that Caleb Johnson has said he went in to try to find a problem with the city council president, Mr. Dale Lynch’s paperwork, but in finding nothing, he went on to check everyone’s. What reason could there be other than to try to make it so there is no competition for city council?”

Bonnell said her focus continues to be on the City of Washington Court House and its residents.

“I am here to help our city, to improve our downtown, to assist in economic development, to listen to my constituents, to voice their concerns and assist them in any way I can,” she said. “A situation like this is unacceptable and unnecessary.”

Bonnell’s petition was originally certified for the Nov. 7 general election on Aug. 14 by the Fayette County Board of Elections. She was elected as a city council member in the November 2013 election and her term ends Dec. 31.

Along with Bonnell, incumbents Ted Hawk and Dale Lynch are seeking another term, and they will be challenged by Johnson and Stephen Shiltz. Current city council member Leah Foster will not run for another term and is instead running for a seat on the Washington City Schools Board of Education.

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City council candidate’s signature protest unsuccessful

By Ryan Carter


Reach Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352 or on Twitter @rywica