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Published: Wednesday, 2/13/2013

State panel dismisses ex-workers’ complaints against Lucas County GOP chairman

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Ohio State Personnel Board of Review has dismissed the complaints of two former Lucas County Board of Elections employees who were fired in 2011 over what they claimed was retaliation for “whistleblowing.”

The three-member board ruled earlier this month in the paired cases of Dennis Lange, a former poll worker recruiter, and Kelly Mettler, a former manager of elections. The two, both Republicans, were dismissed when the Ohio Secretary of State's office broke a 2-2 tie on Aug. 10, 2011.

The review board voted 2-0, with one member abstaining.

“I’m very happy that the board came back and cleared me of these baseless allegations,” said Jon Stainbrook, Lucas County Republican Party chairman, who was accused in the complaints. As a Lucas County Board of Elections member, he took part in the vote to fire the two.

“When we first got in the Board of Elections, and we started realizing what was going on there and what the state of the board of elections was, things needed to be changed. We wanted to work with everybody. ... There were some people you just couldn’t trust them, they weren’t doing their jobs. It was nothing personal,” he said.

Mr. Lange declined to comment. Ms. Mettler could not be reached for comment.

Their attorney, Kevin Greenfield, said they will appeal the ruling to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. He said some issues of the state-whistleblower law were not addressed by the employment-relations board.

Mr. Greenfield also has a complaint pending in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, claiming that the secretary of state’s tie-breaker decision was invalid because it was made by a deputy, not by Secretary of State Jon Husted.

At the time, between 2008 and 2010, Mr. Stainbrook was trying to take over leadership of the Lucas County Republican Party. Ms. Mettler and Mr. Lange were perceived as being allied with his political foes within the party. Mr. Stainbrook denied any retaliatory motive. He canceled his trip to Tampa for the Republican National Convention in August to testify at a hearing on the cases in Columbus.

Mr. Lange and Ms. Mettler cited a number of events in which they said they wrote reports or participated in inquiries that were aimed at Mr. Stainbrook. Both claimed Mr. Stainbrook threatened to fire them.

Administrative Law Judge James Sprague said in a 17-page report that in some cases, their reports were ordered by supervisors, their reports came after the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office was probing the issue, or they were not the authors of the reports.

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



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