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Published: Friday, 2/20/2009

Stainbrook slams elections board

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

The chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party yesterday blasted the county Board of Elections for "restructuring" a GOP supervisor out of her job last month without eliminating the corresponding Democratic position.

Jon Stainbrook said he doesn't believe the claim by board Chairman Patrick Kriner that the position of "voter services supervisor" held by Desiree Lyonette was eliminated as part of a restructuring, citing a tape-recorded conversation he had with Republican board member Lynn Olman.

In that recording, provided to The Blade, Mr. Olman is heard saying, "she was underperforming. We chose to do that."

Ms. Lyonette's job ended abruptly following a closed-door executive session of the board Jan. 13. The board voted 3-0, with one member, Democrat Rita Clark, absent. Both Republicans on the board, Mr. Kriner and Mr. Olman, and Democrat Gary Johnson voted to eliminate Ms. Lyonette's position.

Elections Director Linda Howe said the change occurred because other employees could handle the duties and because they needed an information technology person.

The Democratic voter services supervisor, LaVera Scott, was retained because of her knowledge of elections and seniority, Ms. Howe said. Ms. Scott started in 2004 while Ms. Lyonette started in 2006.

Board of Elections employees serve at the pleasure of the board and can be terminated without cause.

The restructuring leaves the board with 13 Republican and 12 Democratic employees, but with an extra Democrat at the supervisory level - three Democrats and two Republicans.

Mr. Kriner insisted the termination was part of a staff restructuring. "It wasn't a performance issue," he said. Ms. Lyonette's personnel file includes a letter of recommendation to future employers.

Mr. Stainbrook yesterday played for The Blade an audio recording of Mr. Olman telling him one week ago that Ms. Lyonette's job performance was the reason for her termination, but without details.

Mr. Stainbrook said he wants to know what the performance issues are in case they relate to his complaints about the board going back to last year's disputed Republican Central Committee election. And he complained that the move was shrouded in secrecy.

Mr. Stainbrook has long been critical of the elections board over what he maintains was a pattern of favoritism shown to his opponent in last year's Republican Central Committee election. He said he continues to be frustrated by a lack of cooperation from GOP officials on the board, whom he contends should keep him apprised of its inside workings.

Reached last night, Mr. Olman did not dispute the recording but described it as a private conversation.

"What I told Jon was my understanding," Mr. Olman said.

Ms. Lyonette could not be reached for comment.

The board is required to have Democrats and Republicans present when working with voting materials, but is not required to balance its staff politically, Mr. Kriner said. He also said the decision was made in an open meeting, and that Mr. Stainbrook would have known about it if he had attended.

On Jan. 28, the board hired Terry Kuhl, a former employee of the Wood County Board of Elections who has information technology expertise, Ms. Howe said. She said other changes are in the works, including for two managers - one 'D' and one 'R' - whose jobs are coming open through retirement.

In other action yesterday, Ms. Howe said 25 optical scan machines for reading paper ballots were coated with smoke from a weekend fire in a county building the board used as its warehouse. She said it was too soon to know if the machines could be cleaned enough to be used again.

Smoke may have destroyed or damaged other equipment. Still unknown is whether 60 touch-screen machines kept inside wooden carts were damaged.

The fire Saturday evening at 546 Southard Ave. was blamed on a truck engine.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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