An effort to fire the director and deputy director of the embattled Lucas County Board of Elections failed for lack of a second today as Director Meghan Gallagher and Deputy Director Dan DeAngelis agreed to a one-month period in which to iron out their differences.
The motion to fire the two came from Democratic board member John Irish, who said some members of the board are wrongly trying to convince Secretary of State Jon Husted that "everything at the board of elections is hunky-dory."
Mr. Irish's motion came after Ms. Gallagher distributed a lengthy rebuttal to the Secretary of State's consultants' report of Feb. 25, along with a 5-inch thick binder containing the many policies that the consultants' report claimed were lacking.
Joining Mr. Irish in criticism of Ms. Gallagher's rebuttal was Republican Tony DeGidio who accused her of spending hundreds of hours of taxpayer time to defend herself against the report's criticisms. Despite his apparent agreement with Mr. Irish, Mr. DeGidio said he couldn't second the motion or vote on it because he said Ms. Gallagher has filed a grievance against him in the Toledo Bar Association in an unrelated injury lawsuit on which he represented her.
"I've been conflicted out," Mr. DeGidio said.
Board members Jon Stainbrook, a Republican, and board chairman, Ron Rothenbuhler, a Democrat, both already said they opposed the plan to fire Ms. Gallagher and Mr. DeAngelis. Mr. Rothenbuhler told the two to work with the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office to come up with a division of labor within the office by the board's next meeting or face possible loss of their jobs.
Two consultants appointed by Mr. Husted - Democrat James Ruvolo of Ottawa Hills and Republican Jonathan Allison of Columbus - issued a report blasting mismanagement of the elections board and recommending that both Ms. Gallagher and Mr. DeAngelis be fired. It accused the board of an alleged lack of policies governing personnel, records retention, budgeting, and inventory control, as well as for an atmosphere of mistrust and paranoia.
In her response to the report today, which Mr. DeAngelis declined to sign, Ms. Gallagher accepted some of the consultants' criticism, but said the report overlooked policies that have long been in existence. In addition, she said some of the problems of the board were actually caused by the "special masters" assigned by Mr. Husted from August, 2012, through February, 2013, to oversee daily operations of the troubled board.
She said many of the problems are part of a culture that existed long before she and Mr. DeAngelis were hired. One point on which she and the consultants agreed is that the board lacks a defined chain of command. She said that even though she is the director, she is prevented from being able to make staff do their jobs in some cases.
For example, Ms. Gallagher wrote that the office has new policies for electronically storing records but, “despite repeated requests from senior management, employees refuse to place their documents in a centralized location which would allow all employees access to this publicly held information.”
The board also set a date for a residency hearing on Mr. DeGidio, who has been accused by his former political ally, Mr. Stainbrook, of no longer living in Lucas County, a claim Mr. Stainbrook made several times during today's board meeting. The hearing to determine if Mr. DeGidio is validly registered to vote in Lucas County is set for March 27.
If the board determines that one of its own members is not a registered voter in Lucas County, Mr. DeGidio would be unable to remain on the board. A challenge that was filed Monday contends that Mr. DeGidio no longer has a residence in Lucas County but lives in Youngstown, a claim Mr. DeGidioi is disputing.
At the end of the meeting, an associate of Mr. Stainbrook, Kelly Bensman, berated Mr. DeGidio over his residency and other issues and was ordered to leave the building by an Ohio state police officer assigned to provide security in Government Center.
Ms. Bensman defended her behavior, saying the officer told her to leave only because Mr. DeGidio requested it to prevent her from asking him questions. She said the situation was quickly defused and she was allowed to remain in Government Center.
Contact Tom Troy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6058. Follow him on Twitter @TomFTroy