CLEVELAND, OH – Sean Ward may have had good intentions when he decided to campaign to serve in the office of mayor of East Cleveland as the municipal corporation’s chief law enforcement officer. But there are laws that instruct political hopefuls on when they’re qualified to seek an elected office he was warned not to ignore.
For circulating petitions knowing he did not meet the qualifications for mayoral candidates, Ward now has a hearing scheduled before the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections on Monday, June 28, 2021 at 9:30 a.m. He’s accused of violating Section 112(A) of East Cleveland’s charter. East Cleveland Sunrise co-publisher and community watchdog Justyn Anderson is the complainant.
“Qualifications: The mayor shall have been, for at least two (2) consecutive years immediately prior to his election or appointment, a resident and qualified elector of the City East Cleveland. During his or her term, the mayor shall remain a resident and qualified elector of the City and shall carry out his duties on a full-time basis.”
The operative word in Section 112(A) of East Cleveland’s charter is “shall.” Whenever “shall” is found within a law it imposes mandatory instructions for the person or official to whom it applies. They have to obey the law’s instructions as written.
To qualify for mayor of East Cleveland required Ward to “have been,for at least two (2) consecutive years immediately prior to his election or appointment, a resident and qualified elector of the City East Cleveland.” The law’s plain English instructions are “clear and unambiguous” and “need no interpretation.”
As EJBNEWS previously reported, voter registration records from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections shows Ward changing his address on May 15, 2020 online from 624 Dade Lane in Richmond Heights to 15411 Oakhill Road in East Cleveland, Ohio. Prior to May 15, 2020 Ward had never been registered to vote in East Cleveland.
Election records show Ward as having voted between Euclid, South Euclid, Cleveland Heights and Richmond Heights between November 2004 through November 2019. Ward voted for the first time in East Cleveland on November 4, 2020 or 8 months before he submitted petitions to the elections board for mayor on June 15, 2021.
To have been qualified to seek the job of mayor in the East Cleveland primary election on September 14, 2021, however, Ward should have relocated to and voted from a residence in the city as a qualified elector on November 5, 2019 instead of in Richmond Heights. East Cleveland voters determined they wanted mayoral candidates to meet the qualifications found in Section 112(A) of the Charter and voted “yes” to add them on November 7, 2000.
It won’t be until May 14, 2022 that Ward will meet the “at least two consecutive years immediately prior” requirements to seek the mayor’s job in the next election in November 2025. Ward does not currently meet the “resident and qualified elector” requirements of Section 112(A) of East Cleveland’s charter. By November 2021 he’ll have been a resident and qualified elector for 17 months when he needs 24.
Ward cancels his own good intentions and smears his family name by violating election laws with his first attempt at getting on the ballot for the chief law enforcement officer’s job. The office of mayor pursuant to Section 113(A) of East Cleveland’s Charter makes the official the municipal corporation’s “chief law enforcement officer” or “chief conservator of the peace.” The mayor is required to obey and enforce all laws. There’s no picking and choosing.
SECTION 113. POWERS OF THE MAYOR.A. General Powers and Duties: The Mayor shall be the chief executive officer of the City, responsible for carrying out and fulfilling the intent and purpose of any and all legislation duly passed by the Council. The Mayor shall supervise the administration of all the affairs of the City and the conduct and administration of all departments and divisions thereof, except the Council and as otherwise provided by this Charter, and the Mayor shall have all such powers as are conferred upon Mayors by the laws of the State of Ohio. The Mayor shall be the chief conservator of the peace within the City and shall see that all laws, resolutions, and ordinances are enforced therein.
Candidates for the office of Mayor or member of Council shall be nominated only by petition. No primary election shall be held for the election of Council members, but a partisan primary election shall be held for the election of the Mayor. No nomination except as prescribed by this section shall be effective. The name of any elector of the city shall be printed as a candidate on the regular municipal election ballot, in the case of candidates for Council, or on the primary election ballot, in the case of candidates for Mayor, if there is filed with the election authorities as prescribed by general law a petition in accordance with the following provisions:
Subsection (a) of Section 115 includes an oath Ward was required to sign attesting to certain facts about his candidacy and that he was qualified as an elector. The affirmation about his being qualified for the office of mayor was made to the nominating committee of three and to each person who signed the nominating petition.
(a) Such petition shall state the name and place of residence of each person whose name is presented for a place upon the ballot, and that he or she is a qualified candidate for the office sought.
Ward’s nominating committee at some point learned about his qualifications for office prior to the nominating petitions being delivered to the elections board. On his own Ward should have “ceased being a candidate” for the office of mayor. That law-abiding act would have given the nominating committee the opportunity to submit the name of another candidate pursuant to Section 115(f) of East Cleveland’s charter.
Each petition shall name a committee of three authorized electors to represent the signers of such petition. If the elector nominated by such petition shall, for any reason, cease to be a candidate, a majority of such committee shall select an elector to fill such vacancy and shall thereupon make and file with the election authorities prescribed by law a certificate, setting forth the name of the new nominee, the office for which nominated, the name of the person for whom the new nominee is to be substituted and such other information as is required to be given in an original petition for nomination. The certificate so made shall be executed, acknowledged and sworn to by the majority of the committee in the manner prescribed for the original petition for nomination, and shall be filed with the election authorities prescribed by general law at least seventy-six (76) days before the date of election and shall have the same force and effect as an original petition for nominations: and the new nominee shall file his or her acceptance of such candidacy with the election authorities along with said certificate, otherwise his or her name shall not appear on the ballot.
Should the board of elections determine Ward fails to meet the qualifications of an elector to seek the job of mayor, the nominating committee will have the option of finding another “qualified” candidate to replace him 76 days before the election. Ward has drawn a lot of unnecessary drama to himself and his family over good-intentioned stubborn ways that violate laws a mayor has to ensure are obeyed and enforced.
Chapter 2901.01 of the Ohio Revised Code is where criminal statutes or state laws are found. The heading is “General provisions; definitions.” We’ve got great laws in Ohio that elected officials aren’t enforcing. A beautiful state constitution … too.
Pursuant to R.C. 2901.01(11) a “Law enforcement officer” means any of the following; and under Subsection (c) we find these words. “A mayor, in the mayor’s capacity as chief conservator of the peace within the mayor’s municipal corporation.”
A candidate seeking the job of a law enforcement officer has a duty to know and obey the laws and constitutional dictates that are mandated for the job. A candidate who violates laws becomes an elected official who violates them. You start off wrong and you end up wrong in government.
Ward’s got a hearing on June 28, 2021 at the board of elections. The county prosecuting attorney assigns an assistant prosecutor to observe the proceedings for violations of law; and to advise the officers of the board and the employees on their official duties.
Ward is boxed into his documented voting record. He voluntarily changed his voting address five times between cities. The fifth voluntary and law-abiding voting address change was from Richmond Heights to East Cleveland.
What’s his new story? That all the time he was voting illegally in other cities he was living with adult relatives in an East Cleveland family home? If that’s so then he’s opened himself to an investigation by the Regional Income Tax Authority for the municipal incomes taxes he would owe the city. There’s no win to lying about residency.
For all the years Ward voted or participated in politics in Euclid, South Euclid, Cleveland Heights and Richmond Heights he did so lawfully while he lived outside East Cleveland. As a new resident of East Cleveland Ward is running for mayor in violation of Section 112(A) of the city’s charter.
Ward can’t respect East Cleveland voters if he doesn’t respect their laws. There’s no “magic language” in Anderson’s complaint. There are no extra words Ward can offer to the elections board for consideration. His voting record speaks for itself.
Ward should withdraw his candidacy and he shouldn’t take Anderson’s complaint personally. Laws allow for residency challenges. More voters should use them.