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Published: Wednesday, 10/12/2011

Poll-worker training reinstated by board

Elections panel votes in heated special session

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Lucas County Board of Elections decided yesterday morning after a lengthy meeting -- one that was filled initially with disagreement -- to continue poll worker training for the November election.

Democratic board member James Ruvolo opened the special meeting by asking Elections Director Ben Roberts who canceled the training Friday. He was told that Megan Gallagher, a Republican and elections manager for the board, had done so to cut overtime.

Mr. Ruvolo asked whether the county would be ready for the election with the training being canceled. Ms. Gallagher replied: "We do not have the appropriate staff in place because we tried on several occasions to put on the agenda to hire an assistant booth official for the Republicans -- the Democrats have one. We do not have one."

She added that board Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler, a Democrat, has not allowed that item to be placed on the elections board's agenda.

Mr. Ruvolo said after the meeting that the cancellation of training "was made unilaterally without the Democrats."

Mr. Rothenbuhler said the two Republicans on the board -- Jon Stainbrook and Anthony DeGidio -- favored hiring two new employees rather than using existing employees on overtime. "I think it is cheaper to pay overtime, especially when you are talking about hiring someone full time," Mr. Rothenbuhler said.

Mr. Stainbrook said acrimony yesterday had nothing to do with canceling training.

"We are short two Republican positions that the Democrats will not allow to be hired -- the assistant to the director to the board of elections and the Republican assistant poll booth official," Mr. Stainbrook said.

He said the Democrats are trying to "strong-arm the Republicans."

Mr. Stainbrook said Mr. Rothenbuhler has refused to put the two hiring requests on the board agenda.

"Why are they tying our hands?" he said. "This has nothing to do with the training. This is all a power play."

Also during the meeting, Mr. Ruvolo made a motion that Mr. Roberts, a Republican, and Deputy Director Daniel DeAngelis, a Democrat, be required to work together to present issues to the board jointly. He said if they could not agree, the two would be required to present both sides in writing to the board, which would then decide.

"The director doesn't work for the Republicans and the deputy director doesn't work for the Democrats," Mr. Ruvolo said. "They both work for the board. That is why I made a motion for them both to work together and present their motions as a unit."

Mr. DeGidio disagreed. He said the board has had difficulty agreeing what would be on the agenda and instead wanted to have each member given a say about what is placed on the agenda.

"[Mr. Ruvolo] feels it is appropriate for the employees to have that authority," Mr. DeGidio said after the meeting. "I don't know why we would let the people below us set the agenda."

Both motions failed with tie votes falling along party lines. The board took a lengthy recess, during which Mr. Stainbrook and Mr. Ruvolo spoke with a representative from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted's office.

"The secretary of state [representative] agreed in our conversation today that the training should never have been cancelled. It is too important," Mr. Ruvolo said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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