Greene County Opposes Rule

Greene County opposes rule on campaign contributions by contractors: The county has sued Ohio Secretary of State Brunner’s office over ‘pay to play’ campaign finance reform rules

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Mark Gokavi, SPRINGFIELD NEWS-SUN, 6/9/10. XENIA — Greene County is taking Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to court, even though both sides agree about the law regarding campaign financing reform. The civil suit, filed last week in Greene County Common Pleas Court, seeks to strike down revisions to Ohio’s “pay to play” laws limiting the awarding of public contracts worth $10,000 or more to political contributors. The legislation sought to eliminate contractors who contributed $1,000 or more (in most cases) to a campaign from being paid back through government contracts, according to Thomas C. Miller, an attorney with the Greene County prosecutor’s civil division.

That provision of House Bill 694 already was successfully challenged in a United Auto Workers lawsuit brought against Brunner in Franklin County. In 2009, the state’s 10th District Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision, saying HB 694 was not constitutionally enacted and thus never became law. Greene County officials are seeking a declaratory judgment that would make the law the same here as it is in Franklin County.

“Unfortunately, that decision was never appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, nor in the interim did the General Assembly enact any cleaned-up version of it through a constitutionally-proper procedure,” Miller said. “It would be inappropriate for us to rely on a 10th District Court of Appeals’ opinion when we’re sitting down here in the Second District.”

The suit lists Greene County Engineer Robert N. Geyer and the Greene County Board of County Commissioners as plaintiffs, Brunner as defendant.

“We’ve continued to follow it because that district doesn’t hold sway over our area and can’t tell us whether something is constitutional or not because it never did (get appealed) up to the Supreme Court and make it statewide,” Greene County administrator Howard Poston said. “This suit will just broaden that to allow the entities within Greene County to be able to operate under the same opinion that it’s not constitutional in this district either.”

Brunner’s office sent a memo to Ohio’s county boards of elections in June 2009 saying the court’s opinion had settled the matter. It stated also that the campaign finance division would issue a revised handbook outlining Ohio’s campaign finance laws.

Brunner’s media relations coordinator, Kevin Kidder, said Brunner’s legal team would study the lawsuit before commenting, but that her office would let the 2009 memo speak for itself.

A hearing in front of Judge Stephen A. Wolaver or briefing schedule has not been set.