Saying the Lucas County Board of Elections’ “culture of dysfunction … must come to an end once and for all,” Secretary of State Jon Husted on Thursday removed three board members and served notice that he would appoint no one with a connection to “the problems of the past.”
Removed were Republican board members Jon Stainbrook and Tony DeGidio and Democratic board member and chairman Ron Rothenbuhler. Democratic board member John Irish was retained but suspended until the other new board members are sworn in.
Mr. Husted retained Director Gina Kaczala as interim director for administrative and operational continuity, at least until a new board is appointed. And he appointed LaVera Scott, the elections services manager, as interim deputy director, at least until a new board is sworn in.
Mr. Husted released a 27-page, no-holds-barred indictment of the elections board written by deputy assistant secretary of state Matt Damschroder, following a daylong hearing in Toledo on May 15.
“The Transparency Committee concluded that the cancers inherent within the Board of Elections are so advanced, and the long-term prognosis so severe, that the prospect of this Board of Elections healing itself is simply not a viable solution from their perspective,” wrote Mr. Damschroder, the hearing officer.
The report found a rash of troubling anecdotes and behaviors, among them failure to file campaign-finance reports; failure to properly audit election officials’ numbers and training; failure to properly set or follow an agenda for board meetings; not having a policy for hiring, firing, and managing seasonal employees; not having a policy regarding nepotism; not filling vacant election positions in a timely manner; failure to have proper communications between the staff and board, and failure to maintain decorum at the board.
Specifically, it faulted all three fired board members for failing to refer flawed campaign-finance reports to the Ohio Elections Commission for two years, for failing to schedule regular board meetings since October, as required by state statute, and for failing to implement the so-called Allison-Ruvolo report issued in early 2013 that recommended adoption of new policies and dismissal of two top staffers.
The secretary of state excused Mr. Irish from the firing mainly because he was the only member of the board to try to implement the Allison-Ruvolo recommendations.
Mr. Irish said he had no objection to his temporary suspension. “There’s really nothing I can do as a single individual, so I would be in limbo to do anything anyhow,” he said.
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