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The Plain Dealer

Thursday, April 12, 2007

 

Bennett quits elections panel

Agreement ends standoff with Ohio secretary of state

 

Mark Rollenhagen

Plain Dealer Bureau Chief

 

Columbus -- Ohio Republican Chairman Bob Bennett agreed to leave the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Wednesday, ending a weeks- long fight with Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

 

Bennett agreed to resign, ef fective May 1, and Brunner agreed to drop an administrative complaint that sought his removal as part of an overhaul of the board.

 

"This was something that was going to drag on for six months in an adversarial relationship, and I just wasn't willing to continue doing that," Bennett said in an interview. "It's just not in the public interest. The voters of Cuyahoga County really deserve better."

 

Bennett said he agreed to resign and drop a lawsuit against Brunner when she agreed to drop her administrative com plaint against him "without a finding of fault."

 

"What was very important to me was no finding of fault," Bennett said.

 

Brunner said in an interview that the agreement merely requires her to drop her complaint against Bennett without a finding of fault and acknowledges that a hearing on the complaint scheduled for next week isn't necessary in light of his resignation.

 

Bennett remains suspended from the board, and the board remains under her administrative oversight, she and her spokesman Patrick Gallaway said.

 

Brunner, a Democrat who took office in January, last month asked for the resignations of all four members of the Cuyahoga elections board -- two Democrats and two Republicans -- because of a series of problems, including the criminal convictions of two board workers for their handling of a recount. Bennett was the only one to refuse.

 

"It really wasn't targeted at Bob Bennett," Brunner said. "It was simply to give the people of Cuyahoga County a clean slate with their election board and to give them a chance to rebuild their system and their reputation."

 

Bennett went to court in Franklin County in an attempt to block Brunner from removing him. A judge last week refused to block an administrative hearing scheduled for next Monday in Euclid.

 

Brunner said she hopes three new board members will be appointed within two weeks so the board can move toward appointing a director and deputy director. Bennett can't be replaced until his resignation becomes effective.

 

Brunner said she sent Bennett a letter Wednesday accepting his resignation.

 

"I thanked him for his service on the board and I wished him well in the future," she said. "And I meant that."

 

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

mrollenhagen@plaind.com, 1-800-228-8272

 

2007 The Plain Dealer