XENIA — A pair of current Xenia City Council members could find out the status of their candidacy for re-election early next week after the board of elections heard a protest hearing Friday.
Mike Engle, who serves as council president, and Will Urschel had turned in petitions with what they were thought were adequate signatures (50) based on information received from the board of elections. However after watching a recent council meeting online and a subsequent open records request, Xenia citizens Christian M. Steen and Benjamin C. Patterson discovered the two incumbents did not have enough signatures (75) per the city charter — which supersedes the Ohio Revised Code — and filed a protest last month.
After hearing testimony at the Greene County Courthouse Friday, which included an emotional plea from Urschel, the four-member board of elections went into private deliberations and continued those proceedings until 4:30 p.m. Monday.
Steen said the case was “cut and dry” citing the city charter.
“Its a very simple matter of case,” he said.
Urschel argued that the protest should be rejected because all five council candidates were certified at 50 signatures (the other three had at least 75) and information given to him from a board of elections employee indicated that only 50 valid signatures were required. He also cited several court cases regarding ballot access.
He claimed that protest is really against the board of elections, which “failed to implement one specific ballot access restriction provided for in the Xenia City Charter in the written instructions to the candidates and failed to certify the petitions to this additional restriction.”
Urschel — who indicated he may pursue further action — said had he known he needed 75 signatures, he would have gotten that amount and suggested he and Engle receive one more business day to obtain the required number of signatures.
“You as a board need to be accountable for the information you provide the candidates,” he said.
Council member Wes Smith spoke as a witness for Engle and said information given to the candidates indicating 50 signatures were needed was “detrimental” but the candidates had no reason not to trust what they were told.
“Who are they to questions that that piece of paper is wrong,” he said.
Board member Doris Adams questioned why they didn’t notice the discrepancy between the charter and what the board of elections told them.
“If I was a member of city council I would be familiar with the city charter,” she said. “This is part of your job to know that.”
In his final arguments, Steen said the board of elections was being thrown “under the bus” and added that there are other elections if the candidates wish to run in the future.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.