Elections board rejects protest over Harveysburg candidate’s eligibility to run

There will be a contested race for the two seats on Harveysburg Village Council in the November general election after a protest against one of the three candidates was rejected following a hearing Tuesday at the Warren County Board of Elections.

Brian Sleeth, county elections director, said village council members James Nelson and Mark Tipton filed protests against the candidacy of Mayor Richard Verga, whose term as mayor expires Dec. 31. Verga opted to run for a council seat instead of seeking re-election as mayor this fall.

Tipton is an incumbent council member who had been appointed and is serving as the council president. He is seeking a full four-year term in the Nov. 7 general election. Nelson is also an incumbent council member whose term of office expires in 2025.

Sleeth said the two protests were merged into one that challenged Verga’s eligibility as he is currently residing in an assisted living nursing center in Waynesville. Verga, 85, recently told the Dayton Daily News that his home had burned down and is being rebuilt so that he can resume his residency. He has been staying temporarily in an assisted living center outside the village limits.

The Warren County Board of Elections had already certified the mayoral and council candidates and the issues for the Nov. 7 general election ballot. Sleeth said the elections board ruled in favor of Verga and cited case law and the Ohio Revised Code that said a person in this situation who is forced to live outside of their home jurisdiction while their home is being rebuilt and intends to return, remains an eligible voter and/or candidate in that jurisdiction.

“The ORC treats a candidate the same as a voter if they are planning to return to their home,” Sleeth said.

Tipton declined to make any additional comments about the protest decision.

The village, which has a population of about 600 residents that includes nearly 400 registered voters, has a number of candidates and issues to vote on in the general election.

On the local ballot, Harveysburg voters will need to select a new mayor and two new council members in contested races; the fate of a five-year, 2.5-mill police levy renewal; a five-year, 3-mill operating expenses renewal levy; and a vote to surrender the village’s corporate powers and dissolve.

Resident Rick Hatfield said more than 100 registered voters signed the petition to dissolve the village because of the drama and controversy that has been created. Council is also in the midst of determining whether an admission tax on the Ohio Renaissance Festival should be imposed as well as increasing various permit fees to generate revenue.

In addition, the village is in a lawsuit filed by the owners of the Ohio Renaissance Festival which is seeking to detach from the village and return to Massie Twp. That litigation is slated to be heard next May in Warren County Common Pleas Court. A contract between the festival ownership and village that provided an annual payment expired last December.

The village has the authority to impose up to a 1% income tax without a public vote but has chosen not to impose an income tax on its residents. Other than the festival’s payment to the village, Harveysburg relies on traffic fines through its Mayor’s Court and property taxes for revenues.

Verga said if the festival does detach from the village, it would be “catastrophic.”

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