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Suspended Lucas County elections official resigns

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Larry Loutzenhiser, a supervisor at the Lucas County Board of Elections, resigned yesterday.

The longtime employee of the office, who had risen to the post of deputy director before being demoted two years ago after two investigations discovered irregularities in the office, was suspended Thursday as a result of problems with the board's official count of ballots cast in the Nov. 2 election.

"He will be sorely missed," said Paula Ross, a Democratic member of the county elections board.

Mr. Loutzenhiser, a Democrat, did not respond to calls for comment. Ms. Ross said that he told her yesterday his decision involved "some personal issues, and also about the changed environment at the board of elections and expectations.

"Larry was in charge of the room on the 12th floor where we think there may have been a clerical error made [in the ballot counting process]. It was because he was supervising a process" that he was disciplined, Ms. Ross said.

He was one of four workers in the office to be suspended Thursday, including fellow Supervisor Bruce Temple and Paula Lykowski, the top assistant to elections Director Paula Hicks-Hudson. An investigation into counting irregularities continued yesterday. A meeting to discuss the matter is set for tomorrow.

Ms. Hudson is also on her way out. She announced Friday she planned to leave her post around the end of the year. John Alexander, the county commissioners' top executive, is considered a replacement candidate.

Bernadette Noe, the Republican chairman of the four-member governing board, said that in the coming postelection lull, the elections board will be able to take stock.

"We finally have somewhat of a reprieve to take a look at the issues that have been pointed out to us by the secretary of state," she said. "We are not halfway done. There are just a lot of things that need attention."

With Ms. Hicks-Hudson on her way out, Mr. Alexander has been named by both Ms. Ross and Ms. Noe as a possible replacement. Both have spoken highly of him, and Mr. Alexander, a Democrat, said he would be available. He is leaving his current post at the end of the month.

"I asked him if it was something he wanted to be considered for. He said he would contemplate that," Ms. Ross said.

"I told Paula Ross that I was hoping they would look for perhaps a seasoned administrator, someone who has had a lot of experience managing staff," Ms. Noe said. "In fact, I said, 'Why don't you talk to John Alexander?'●"

Sandy Isenberg, chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party, said Mr. Alexander could be good for the elections office.

"I think he'd be terrific. I could be supportive of John Alexander. I already said something to Paula [Ross] when she mentioned it to me last week. I said it sounds good to me."

The board of elections must vote to appoint a new director, who, under the board's current organizational scheme, must be a Democrat because the chairman of the four-member elections board - Ms. Noe - is a Republican. Deputy Director Jill Kelly is a Republican.

"It's flattering," Mr. Alexander said, adding that he promised Ms. Ross he would consider the position. He said he has not yet had a chance to do so.

Mr. Alexander, a lawyer and beneficiary of the Public Employees Retirement System after 30 years of public employment, was rehired to a different position at the county three years ago. He said he was unsure if he would stay in the public sector or move to private practice.

Contact Fritz Wenzel at:

fritz@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.

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