Elections commission dismisses one local complaint, schedules hearing for second

 by Judy Stringer

The Ohio Elections Commission dismissed a Nov. 2 complaint against 2023 Hudson City Council candidates Mike Bird, Madeline Lepidi-Carino and Patricia Goetz.

The complaint, filed by Hudson resident and attorney Austin Barnes, had alleged the candidates coordinated with the nonprofit Clocktower Collaborative – which distributed mailings supporting them in the November general election – and had therefore failed to properly report those mailings as “in-kind” donations in required financial disclosures.

According to Ohio Elections Commission Executive Director Philip Richter, the commission’s Jan. 18 preliminary review of the case found “no violation” of state elections laws.

The commission will take a deeper dive, however, into a separate, Nov. 30 complaint. Former Hudson Ward Four Representative Scott Ruffer, who was unseated by Bird, filed the second complaint. It alleges that Clocktower Collaborative is a Political Action Committee and as such “is obligated to file various campaign finance reports and filings,” which it did not do.

In a response dated Jan. 2, former Hudson City Manager Jane Howington, one of Clocktower Collaborative’s founding members, stated that the organization is not a PAC and is not subject to the statutes in question. She also requested the complainant compensate Clocktower Collaborative for attorney fees.

Richter said that at the Jan. 18 preliminary review, the commission referred Ruffer’s case to a full hearing. The hearing date has not been set, but it will likely take place in the summer, he added.

Earlier this year, Summit County Court of Common Pleas Judge Kelly McLaughlin dismissed a civil complaint Ruffer brought against Bird and the Summit County Board of Elections, involving similar allegations. Howington is currently seeking recovery of personal attorney fees in that case, for which she sought legal assistance complying with a subpoena to produce a broad set of Clocktower Collaborative communications and documents. ∞