Esrati files against the Board of Elections: Your agenda items aren’t Oscar nominations

Dayton: Community activist David Esrati, filed pro se in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court today asking for the courts to stop the Montgomery County Board of Elections from meeting today to certify candidate petitions because they failed to present an adequate agenda for the meeting. Esrati claims they are running the meeting like the Oscars- with no release of the actual winners and losers until their red carpet affair at 3pm today. He shared the agenda and his problem with its lack of any actual actionable items on Friday after being told that his public records request would be denied and the Director, Sarah Greathouse wouldn’t respond to questions because Esrati had informed the BOE that failure to respond would force court action, which by law, is the only way to get government officials to comply.

Here is his filing:

Esrati is also asking for a visiting Judge and that the Montgomery County Prosecutors office be excluded from representing the BOE. He reasons that because the directors of the Board of Elections are appointed by the political parties, and the parties have an unwritten agreement to not challenge judges, the judges are biased to protect the people that protect them. And since the Montgomery County Democratic party allows patronage job appointees to serve on the parties central committee- members of the prosecutors office would be defending the people they appointed instead of the public that they are supposed to work for.

Esrati expects those objections to be overruled and that the judges and prosecutors will intercede to protect their anointed members of their party patrons that run the Board of Elections.

  • While Ohio Sunshine Laws are notoriously toothless, this case is important because it would clarify several important legal precedents:
  • Should an agenda, when viewed by a common citizen give them enough information to know what is actually going to happen at a meeting?
  • Do complete agendas have any real requirement to be presented at least 24 hours before a public meeting?
  • Are directors of the Boards of Elections, who are hired by the political parties, have any real accountability to either the public, or even to members of their own parties central committee (Esrati is a duly elected precinct captain of the Montgomery County Board of Elections).
  • Is it appropriate for the Montgomery County Prosecutors Office to represent the Board of Elections to defend people appointed by the Montgomery County Prosecutor and his crony patronage job holders who he appointed to the Democratic Party Central Committee (which holds open votes by a show of hands which party bosses watch?) or should the prosecutor actually represent the citizen filing the open meetings case- to help protect the public with adherence to the Sunshine Laws?

Esrati is asking for removal of the directors for their abject failure to properly inform the public and refusal to provide public records. He believes he is due $100 per day for each day that the requested documents haven’t been provided (currently four- he counts the weekend, because he had to work on the filing injunction to get the documents) and $500 for each violation of the Open Meetings act- the question of if every name withheld counts as a violation- or are they held secretly as a single violation is an unanswered question.

Esrati has been involved in several other open meetings, public records cases and first amendment cases over the last 25 years. He was arrested in Dayton City Commission Chambers for wearing a “ninja mask” to protest the commissions consideration of a new rule to make sure the public wasn’t seen on their meeting videos. He claimed their “secret meeting” called a “work session” was a violation of the open meetings act. After 2.5 years, Esrati prevailed in five court actions and the case settled for $100,000 (most of it went to lawyers).

He attempted to force the Dayton Public Schools to comply with the open meetings act to stop what he called an “Illegal school closing task force” in 2018, and failed despite overwhelming video evidence that the task force met illegally.

Esrati also filed a mandamus action to acquire video surveillance footage from the Dayton Metro Library after they illegally and improperly forced his removal from the new downtown branch on Aug 19, 2017. That case is awaiting action in the Ohio Supreme Court.

Esrati has had multiple run-ins with the Montgomery County Board of Elections as a frequent candidate for public office since 1991 when he first ran for the office of Mayor. He believes that bad petition design contributes to many candidates failing to even make it onto the ballot, as well as the questionable practice of signature verification by untrained graphologists at the Board of Elections. Unofficially, the rule to accept notarized affidavits from voters who’s signature was impeached by the BOE is called “The Esrati Rule” and that rule is what would come into play with petitions that could be excluded in today’s BOE meeting.

Please note, as a reader of this blog, if you approve of activist journalism like this, please consider donating to help with legal filing fees, and personal costs associated with drafting this complaint and following up with these court proceedings to protect your rights to know what your government is doing in their “public meetings” and what constitutes a “public record.”
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