Appeal Filed In Council Election

BENWOOD – Councilman Curtis Mele has filed his contest of Benwood’s May 13 election results with the city, and now other council members are set to determine whether he should be declared the winner of a full four-year term on council.

A hearing in the matter has been scheduled for 3 p.m. on June 9 in council chambers at the City Building, located at 430 Main St.

Mele had filed for re-election to his 1st Ward council seat and was running unopposed in the election. But the name of Benwood’s other 1st Ward council member, Chuck Terry, appeared on the ballot instead of Mele’s.

Terry – whose term on council doesn’t expire until the summer of 2016 – received 22 votes in the race, while another 20 write-in votes were cast. Many residents realized Mele’s name had been omitted from the ballot and wrote in his name, according to city officials.

Mele said this week he properly filed for re-election, ran unopposed, and believes he should be declared the winner of a full four-year term on council. He signed the election contest on Wednesday, according to City Solicitor Eric Gordon.

Mayor Ed Kuca had planned to call a special meeting of council for Monday, but Gordon told him more time was needed to prepare for the hearing.

“It’s short notice,” Gordon said. “We want to make sure there’s enough time if Mr. Mele wants to have his counsel present, or if other witnesses are called.”

During the hearing, council members can ask questions of the parties involved, and evidence can be presented. Terry – as the candidate who actually received the votes in the race – also has the right to comment, according to Gordon.

Based upon what transpires at the hearing, he said, council members must decide two issues: whether a problem occurred during the election, and, if so, what remedy is warranted.

Council can render their judgment following the hearing, or take time to deliberate. Their next regularly scheduled meeting is set for the following day at 7 p.m. June 10.

Mele’s current term on council expires June 30.

Other council members elected in the May 13 election were Larry Ferrera III in the 2nd Ward, Walter Yates in the 3rd Ward and Bob Rose in the 4th Ward. The newly elected council members will be sworn into office on July 8.