by Judy Stringer
Hudson resident and attorney Austin Barnes filed a Nov. 2 complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission, alleging that then Hudson City Council candidates Mike Bird, Madeline Lepidi-Carino and Patricia Goetz committed “election fraud” by not properly reporting “in-kind” donations from a local group campaigning on their behalves.
Bird and Goetz won their respective ward seats. Lepidi-Carino did not.
According to Barnes’ complaint, Bird, Lepidi-Carino and Goetz were among a large group of people who received a July 29 email from former City Manager Jane Howington announcing the creation of the nonprofit Clocktower Collaborative and the organization’s intent “to get some mailings out … in support of our ward candidates’ positions.” Earlier in the email, which is attached to the complaint, Howington had introduced Bird, Lepidi-Carino, Goetz and Chris Machionne as “our ward candidates.” Machionne later dropped out of the Ward Three race.
Barnes’ complaint argues that the candidates unlawfully excluded the cost of the mailings in their pre-election finance reports and the fliers “were being planned with the candidates’ full knowledge.” The complaint also alleged that the mailings, valued at more than $100, violate a Hudson ordinance that limits contributions to $100 or less.
Bird and Goetz addressed the complaint publicly at the Nov. 14 city council meeting, contending that there was no coordination between their campaigns and the Clocktower Collaborative mailings.
“The Summit County Republican Party’s endorsement and creation of a sample ballot, that cost more than $100, was not an in-kind contribution to Scott Ruffer’s campaign or any other Republican because it was done without consent, cooperation or request,” Bird said. “Likewise, the negative campaign ad put out by the Summit County Democratic Party, that also cost more than $100, was not an in-kind contribution to my campaign because there was no consent, cooperation or request. Similarly, there has been no consent, cooperation or request made to the Clocktower Collaborative, so there is no in-kind contribution.”
A spokesperson for the Ohio Elections Commission said the complaint is slated to go before the commission on Jan. 18.
A second complaint has been filed against Bird, alleging his yard campaign signs failed to include the required “paid for by” disclosure notice. ∞