AKRON, Ohio (AP) — The state’s high court has ruled Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose abused his discretion in blocking the reappointment of a powerful fellow Republican to a county elections board.
In a decision late Tuesday, justices sided with the Summit County Republican Party in its dispute with LaRose over his decision not to reappoint long-time chair Bryan Williams to the bipartisan panel that oversees elections.
The GOP alleged LaRose’s decision relied on “inaccurate and incomplete facts” and that he sought to exact political retribution against Williams, the party chair in his home county. LaRose argued that a shake-up in board culture was needed as a result of election administration issues in 2020, including traffic jams during early voting and over 700 deceased voters left on voting rolls.
LaRose had cited a similar decision by his predecessor as secretary of state, Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, to remove two members from the Lucas County Board of Elections — one for personal misconduct, one for broader reasons of board performance.
The Supreme Court said both men potentially had authority to remove someone for reasons beyond personal conduct, but that LaRose’s decision on Williams relied on anonymous information that his case failed to prove as fact.
“For this reason, it is an abuse of discretion for a secretary of state to reject a recommendation based on rumors or suspicion,” they wrote. “An accusation without proof, anonymous or not, is not a reasonable nor reliable basis for rejecting a county executive committee’s recommendation.”