Election protest rejected

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Republican Dave Lucas is the sheriff-elect for Belmont County and will begin serving Jan. 7.

Two separate letters of protest disputing Lucas’ election were filed recently with the Belmont County Board of Elections.

Both were shot down during Monday’s board meeting.

Gary Landers of Bellaire filed an initial protest with the board last week, stipulating that Lucas’ official listed date of retirement disqualified him from seeking office as sheriff.

Ohio Revised Code 301.01 (8) (a) stipulates that a candidate for sheriff:

  • Has obtained or held, within the four-year period ending immediately prior to the qualification date, a valid basic peace officer certificate of training issued by the Ohio peace officer training commission or has been issued a certificate of training pursuant to section 5503.05 of the Revised Code, and, within the four-year period ending immediately prior to the qualification date, has been employed as an appointee pursuant to section 5503.01 of the Revised Code or as a full-time peace officer as defined in section 109.71 of the Revised Code performing duties related to the enforcement of statutes, ordinances, or codes.

Lucas’ listed retirement date is Oct. 31, 2007, more than four years prior to the March of 2012 primary.

Belmont County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Berhalter explained to council statutes surrounding the protest of an election.

A protest must be filed within 74 days of the primary election and must be filed by a member of the candidate’s political party.

Landers, a registered Democrat, filed his protest after the general election. His protest was rendered invalid.

“What I don’t understand is that Mr. Lucas retired on Oct. 31, 2007 and that clearly shows he does not meet that qualification,” Landers said. “That is beyond the four year period.

“This board is telling me today that Mr. Lucas has met the qualifications to run for sheriff?”

Elections Board Director Bill Shubat told Landers that the director, deputy director and Judge Jennifer Sargus all checked Lucas’ initial submission for his candidacy.

The board accepted Sargus’ findings and rendered its decision that Lucas was eligible and placed his name on the March primary ballot as the Republican candidate.

When pressed further, board member Bob Quirk reiterated the board’s reasoning for not allowing the protest.

“This board is saying that by statute, the protest is to be filed in a certain amount of time and also by someone from the same party,” Quirk said. “It was not. It we are to go into what you’re talking about we’re acting as if the statute doesn’t count.

“It gives us the requirements. It tells us our deadlines.”

Landers kept returning to the date of Oct. 31, 2007.

Board member J. Carl Lehman stated that while that Landers had the date of Lucas’ retirement from the sheriff’s department, that didn’t mean he wasn’t employed in some other capacity as a law enforcement officer.

No further information was provided on Lucas’ employment, with the Sheriff’s department or otherwise.

Any earlier protest filed by Sheriff Fred Thompson against Lucas was discussed, one that was filed before the primary. But again, because Thompson and Lucas were not of the same party, Thompson’s protest was also invalid.

Hughes may be reached at mhughes@timesleaderonline.com