Ex-landlord sues Butler County GOP

In the wake of the Butler County GOP’s executive chairman resigning, the party has been sued for back and future rent by its former landlord.

The lawsuit, filed Dec. 18 in Butler County Common Pleas Court, alleges the Republican Party breached its lease and owes Bridgewater Falls Station LLC, which manages Bridgewater Falls Lifestyle Shopping Center in Fairfield Twp., nearly $10,900 as of December 2013. That does not include interest, attorney’s fees and future rent for the balance of the term in the amount of $28,800.

The suit, which includes the 40-page lease agreement with the GOP, was served to Republican Party Central Committee chairwoman Judy Shelton. She could not be reached Friday for comment. Central Committee Second Vice Chairman Don Spurlock said the party’s leadership “will resolve” the lawsuit.

“We don’t like the problem, but we’re going to resolve it,” he said. “We didn’t like what we had to do … but since that time some things have changed in the party. I’m confident in the next couple of days we’ll sit down and resolve the entire suit.”

The Republican Party has been the dominate party in the county for decades and has members elected to all but one — one of the juvenile court judge seats — serving in a countywide office. The party began renting space at Bridgewater Falls in December 2009 to serve as its headquarters after it moved from its former headquarters on Ohio 4 in Fairfield Twp. because of the cost.

Earlier this year, the Journal-News reported the party's finances showed it paid $2,700 a month for rent on the lease, which is set to expire at the end of 2014. Most of the party's money went to overhead payments. The party broke its lease at the end of August and moved to what former executive chairman Dave Kern called "a private location." The Journal-News later learned the party's offices were re-located to Stony Run Enterprises, a trucking company located at 3772 Old Oxford Road in Hanover Twp.

Kern resigned as the party's executive committee chair on Dec. 17, the day before the lawsuit was filed in Butler County Common Pleas Court. He said he was not aware the lawsuit was looming before he resigned, but said Friday he is "not terribly surprised."

“The party had this lease signed by my predecessor it can not afford, could not afford; and it was more than the party could pay. It was high-dollar rent,” Kern said. “I knew the potential was out there (of a lawsuit) and hoped it could be resolved with negotiations, but that was not successful.”

Kern was not the only executive committee member to resign around the time the lawsuit was served. Executive Committee First Vice Chair Steve Schramm also stepped down this week, though he could not be reached for comment Friday about why.

Christopher D. Cathey and Stephen S. Schmidt, attorneys with Cincinnati-based Roetzel & Andress, are representing Bridgewater Falls in its lawsuit. They were unable to be reached for comment Friday about why the lawsuit was filed now as opposed to after the Republican Party broke the lease.

Butler County Democratic Party Central Committee chair Kathy Wyenandt said the “financial mess” could be the GOP’s undoing on the stranglehold it has on countywide offices.

“While the Butler County Republicans are struggling to dig themselves out of the hole they put themselves in, the Butler County Democrats are strong and working hard to win in 2014 … and working hard to help Ohio’s families to dig out of the financial mess the Ohio Republicans have caused. It has caused a mess here and a mess statewide.”

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