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Published: Friday, 7/8/2011

Former elections board chief hired by Maumee court

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Linda Howe Linda Howe
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The former director of the Lucas County Board of Elections has been hired to a Maumee Municipal Court part-time job that did not previously exist and had not been advertised -- drawing the ire of some councilmen and city administrators.

Linda Howe, along with her deputy director, Jeremy Demagall, was fired March 25 by the elections board. The firings were done at the request of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted after errors were found during the counting of more than 4,000 provisional ballots during the November election.

Last month, Maumee City Council was told that Ms. Howe had been hired at the city's court and she would work 20 hours a week for $18.99 per hour.

Council President Rich Carr was among those who objected, but was powerless to alter the decision by Municipal Court Judge Gary Byers.

"We have been dealing with a deficit at the city for the last four years and we have not added any employees," Mr. Carr said. "We have taken a projected deficit of about $3 million to $4 million and this year we are going to break even, but the court will operate at a loss of about $800,000, which the city has to make up."

Mr. Carr also said traffic and criminal cases filed in 2010 had decreased compared to 2008 figures.

Ms. Howe, who is not eligible for paid leave or health insurance, worked at the court for 13 years as a probation officer until she resigned in 2008 to become the director of the Lucas County Board of Elections.

Judge Byers took umbrage with comments that the court operates at a loss and that Ms. Howe's hiring was unnecessary.

"She worked in our probation department for 13 years and did a great job," he said.

Judge Byers said Ms. Howe was hired to handle administrative matters, which was part of a recommendation made by the Ohio Supreme Court last year.

"I didn't want to hire a full-time person with all the benefits because that would be very expensive," he said.

The judge added: "We no more run a deficit than the police run a deficit of $6 million… We are not a money-making line item for the city."

Linda Wilker, Maumee's acting finance director, said the hire was frustrating for the city administration, which must make the salary balance within the budget.

"On the city side our concern was that there was no position open, there is no job description, and there was no posting or advertising of the job, so basically we just got a letter that she was being hired and since they are running a deficit, that got us concerned," Ms. Wilker said. "The judge's standpoint was the Supreme Court study said they were supposed to hire an administration person but I had pulled the language from that document and it does not say hire, it says appoint a staff member."



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