JEFFERSON — A residency challenge involving a candidate for Ashtabula County prosecutor was shot down by the board of elections Monday.
Colleen O’Toole, a Republican, will face David Per Due and Malcolm Stewart Douglas in the March primary. The winner will face Democrat Cecilia Cooper in the November general election.
After a couple hours of testimony and more than an hour of deliberation by the Ashtabula County Board of Elections it was determined there wasn’t enough evidence to prove O’Toole isn’t a resident of the county.
O’Toole, who has the endorsement of the Ashtabula County Republican Party, listed an Elm Avenue home owned by the family of Republican county commissioner J.P. Ducro as her place of residence. The Board of Elections unanimously voted that there was not enough evidence to show that the Elm Avenue residence is not where O’Toole lives.
Joseph Varckette, chairman of the Ashtabula County Board of Elections, said there was a great deal of deliberation over the matter.
“The challenger did not in a clear and convincing matter prove that Ms. O’Toole is not a resident,” he said. “Looking at all the evidence, Ms. O’Toole is a registered voter and she has a signed lease at Elm Avenue.”
O’Toole wasn’t present at the hearing and was represented by attorney Casey O’Brien. O’Toole was asked to supply her passport as evidence, but she provided only the cover page showing her name and photo, and not the pages detailing when she has come and gone from the United States.
The board first heard from Thomas Ashcraft, represented by attorney Michael Geary, who last week filed a challenge against O’Toole’s residency and right to vote.
Ashcraft, a registered Republican his entire life, said he met O’Toole at a meet and greet in Jefferson. He said he began to doubt her residency when she discussed working in Abu Dhabi.
Ashcraft discussed visiting the Elm Avenue home and seeing a different name on the mailbox from the former tenant and finding no one home.
Ducro, who testified to seeing O’Toole show up with a moving truck, said the name of the former tenant has remained on the mailbox for a decade and through numerous other tenants.
Geary and Ashcraft provided the board with Lake County Board of Elections records showing O’Toole using an address in Madison to vote in elections there. They provided Ohio Supreme Court records showing her listing her Abu Dhabi employer, but an Eastlake address.
However, O’Brien showed the board an entry that lists a Chardon address for him on the Ohio Supreme Court database although he’s a Jefferson resident.
“According to the Supreme Court my directory listing isn’t flagged as invalid correct?” O’Brien said.
Diane Goss, a paralegal who works for O’Toole, testified that the Eastlake address is O’Toole’s business address for her private law practice.
During the hearing, Geary also subpoenaed and called this reporter, who had interviewed O’Toole the day the challenge was filed, to testify about what the article states. After the hearing, Geary said he called this reporter because O’Toole was not present to testify about her time in Abu Dhabi.
Anthony Cantagallo, a retired attorney who lives across the street from the Elm Avenue residence, said he’s mostly home all day and no one lives in the home. He also said he never saw anyone moving in furniture.
Cindy Spink, O’Toole’s campaign treasurer, said she is also a friend of O’Toole’s and she has gone to the Elm Avenue home to get mail and check up on things while O’Toole is in Abu Dhabi. Spink, however, testified that she has never seen O’Toole at the home.
After the hearing Geary said he was disappointed with the board’s decision.
“I don’t understand how they can reach that conclusion,” Geary said. “I don’t know how there isn’t enough evidence. Even her own campaign worker says she’s never seen her there. There isn’t any evidence that she’s resided in the county at all.”
O’Brien said the board made the right choice through the vote.
“I’m glad they did not establish dangerous precedent,” O’Brien said. “It was the right decision with the facts at hand. Clearly she is a qualified elector. Let’s leave it up to the voters from this point forward.”