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Published: Wednesday, 8/10/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

2 ousted by elections board exit premises

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Dennis Lange defends his work with the Board of Elections. He and Kelly Mettler were officially told they were fired Tuesday. Dennis Lange defends his work with the Board of Elections. He and Kelly Mettler were officially told they were fired Tuesday.
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Two Republican Lucas County Board of Elections employees were terminated Tuesday after the Ohio Secretary of State broke a tie vote in favor of their firings.

Dennis Lange, Republican booth official, and Kelly Mettler, elections manager, were asked to leave the elections office and take their possessions with them following a morning meeting in which the board voted 4-0 to acknowledge the tie-breaking vote from the secretary of state.

The two employees were informed of the board's vote by Deputy Director Daniel DeAngelis. Director Ben Roberts was absent because of a family member's surgery.

There was no immediate indication of who would be hired for the two vacant jobs.

Newly seated Republican elections board members Jon Stainbrook and Tony DeGidio sought the firings. Mr. Stainbrook said the two fired workers had refused to cooperate with the new office leadership.

Elections employees serve at-will and no specific reasons were announced for their dismissals. Mr. Stainbrook has noted that the termination requests were part of an effort to improve what he called an ineffective office.

According to a letter from the secretary of state's office on Monday, it said: "It is terribly disheartening, but abundantly clear that there are irreconcilable differences between these two individuals and the Republican board members."

After he left the office Tuesday, Mr. Lange defended his work since 2004. He said he did the best job he could recruiting Republican temporary workers to work at the precincts on election days, despite Republicans being a minority among Lucas County voters.

"I've done my job faithfully. Went over and above," Mr. Lange, 59, said.

A frequent complaint from Mr. Stainbrook, the Lucas County Republican chairman, over the last several years was that Mr. Lange did a poor job of recruiting Republicans to work the polls. State law requires Republican and Democratic poll workers at every polling place.

Mr. Lange said the Republican Party under Mr. Stainbrook didn't supply him with workers. "When we sent letters to every registered Republican that's on the [GOP] central committee, and we got zero back, and when the calls were made to Chairman Stainbrook and we got no reply, how do you get Republicans?" Mr. Lange said.

Mr. Stainbrook denied that he was called for poll workers. He said it was the job of the Board of Elections, not the Republican Party, to recruit poll workers. He added that central committee members are supposed to work for Republican candidates on Election Day, not staffing polling booths. Nevertheless, Mr. Stainbrook said his central committee members have offered to work the polls and were rejected.

"They didn't want to work with us. They turned our people away," Mr. Stainbrook said, declining to discuss Mr. Lange's work performance in further detail.

Mr. Lange also defended himself against the accusation that sexually explicit photographs were found on his work computer, another complaint of Mr. Stainbrook.

Mr. Lange said the pictures were sent to him unsolicited by a friend and that they show "extreme Halloween costumes," not nudity or sexual activity.

Mr. Lange blamed The Blade's coverage of the elections board for his termination, saying The Blade has sought to "tear down" the office. Mr. Lange said he believed in karma and predicted The Blade would be punished.

Mr. Stainbrook and Mr. DeGidio last week moved to fire five Republican employees, but were blocked by a 2-2 tie when Democratic board members Ron Rothenbuhler and Rita Clark voted against the terminations.

On Monday, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted voted to break the tie to terminate Mr. Lange and Ms. Mettler but voted against terminating the other three.

Ms. Mettler declined to comment when reached by The Blade. Ms. Mettler has been an employee of the Board of Elections since 1994. She was appointed elections manager in 2009. She was paid $59,934 in 2010. Mr. Lange, a former interim chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party, was paid $38,415 in 2010.

In Tuesday's meeting the elections board tabled several items on the agenda until 2 p.m. Friday after Mr. Stainbrook and Mr. DeGidio said they had not received paperwork early enough before the meeting to read it and make good decisions. Among those items were candidates to be certified to the ballot, a list of poll workers to be employed, and a security policy determining which board employees would have off-hours access to the board office.

Contract Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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