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Published: Wednesday, 7/4/2012 - Updated: 3 years ago

Stainbrook, Gerken spar over elections staff


Editor's Note: This version corrects Keila Cosme's party affiliation to Democrat.

Pete Gerken. Pete Gerken.

Republicans and Democrats argued Tuesday during a Lucas County Board of Elections meeting over alleged political interference in the board's hiring of staff.

Jon Stainbrook. Jon Stainbrook.
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In a hallway discussion during a recess, Republican board member Jon Stainbrook accused Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken of meddling in the elections board and pressuring Democratic board members to make two appointments to the board.

Mr. Gerken, a Democrat, has been a regular attendee at the meetings for most of the year since Mr. Stainbrook joined the four-member elections board in June, 2011.

"You should be ashamed of yourself. You're sending people over to the board of elections to be hired," Mr. Stainbrook told Mr. Gerken. "Stay out of the board of elections. You don't run it."

Mr. Gerken responded only by saying, "Thank you, Jon."

Mr. Stainbrook accused Mr. Gerken of pressuring Democratic board member Ron Rothenbuhler to hire two people for jobs on the elections board.

Mr. Gerken said Tuesday night that the commissioners fund the board of elections, and said he has concerns with the way the agency is being run.

"I have an obligation to the taxpayers to know what is going on with a department with a $3.2 million budget that seems to be a bit leaderless," Mr. Gerken said.

He said he took issue with ongoing vacancies in the department's information technology section and what he said was a six months late 2012 budget. The elections board interviewed four people Tuesday to fill the two vacant positions, and Mr. Stainbrook has said the agency's 2012 budget was turned in on time.

Mr. Gerken said he doesn't interfere with Republican hiring, and defended his calls to Mr. Rothenbuhler as appropriate given Mr. Rothenbuhler's role as Lucas County Democratic Party chairman and his own role as arguably the highest elected Democrat in the county.

The board deadlocked 2-2 on a Democratic motion to promote Glynis Fuentes from registration clerk to campaign finance examiner. The motion is expected to go to the Ohio Secretary of State to cast a tie-breaking vote.

Ms. Fuentes is the daughter of George Hillard, vice chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party's executive committee.

The board began considering whether to promote Democratic seasonal employee Annette Cieslukowski, a laid-off former Blade employee and Democratic Party activist, to replace Ms. Fuentes, but stopped short of a vote because Ms. Fuentes' position was not yet vacant.

In interviews Tuesday night, Mr. Gerken acknowledged that he contacted Mr. Rothenbuhler on behalf of promoting Ms. Fuentes, while Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said she advocated to Mr. Rothenbuhler that he promote Ms. Cieslukowski to a full-time position.

Board Director Megan Gallagher distributed to the board members records of nonwork-related phone calls made from Ms. Cieslukowski's telephone during work time, as well as apparent notes on the activities of Republican board employees.

Ms. Cieslukowski's notes, obtained by The Blade in a public information request, include entries such as one appearing to refer to fellow seasonal employee Tim Ide:

"June 14 -- Tim left around 9:15 a.m. cigarettes in hand -- and never returned."

Mr. Ide could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Ms. Gallagher said making personal phone calls on county time is not authorized. She said she didn't know if the descriptions of Mr. Ide's and other employees' activities were accurate.

Reached Tuesday night, Ms. Cieslukowski said she was prohibited from commenting by board policy.

The board also voted on a new organization chart proposed by Democrat board member Keila Cosme.

Mr. Stainbrook objected, saying it would make the director and deputy director equal in stature and that he had not seen the proposal before. Mr. DeGidio also said he needed more time to consider the change.

The vote on the proposed organization chart ended in a 2-2 tie.

Ms. Gallagher complained that Dan DeAngelis, the Democratic deputy director, was refusing to communicate with her or respond to her requests for information, and was meeting behind closed doors with some board employees during work hours.

Mr. Stainbrook called on Ms. Gallagher and Mr. DeAngelis to put all of their communications in email format, but Ms. Cosme said she was already being "bombarded by very petty emails on the minutiae of details."

Mr. Stainbrook said Mr. DeAngelis is supposed to report to Ms. Gallagher, not directly to the board members.

Also Tuesday, the board re-fired Michelle Dudley, its former information technology manager, to correct its previous firing procedure on April 3. Ms. Dudley sued in Lucas County Common Pleas June 21 alleging the board had violated procedures in terminating her.

The board voted unanimously to adopt revisions to its employee policies, procedures, and job descriptions. The board agreed to have the county commissioners prepare a request for proposals to private and public entities to provide a space for a new early voting center.

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

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