BOARD OF ELECTIONS

Director, deputy given equal powers in new plan

6/7/2013
BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Bates
Bates

The fractured Lucas County Board of Elections adopted a new organizational chart for its staff director and deputy director Thursday over the objections of Republican board member Jon Stainbrook, who said it gives Democrats more power than Republicans at the board.

Husted
Husted

The Blade obtained copies of letters in which Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates tried to get Secretary of State Jon Husted to resume direct oversight of the elections board. He refused, saying he was not aware of any recent issues.

The new chart, enacted without the agreement of Director Meghan Gallagher, a Republican, makes the deputy director, Democrat Daniel DeAngelis, equally in charge of the office, and equally responsible to report to the board.

The previous organizational plan ensured that a person of one party was the elections office’s top full-time staff member, while a member of the opposite political party was the governing board’s chairman, to ensure bipartisanship.

Ms. Gallagher and Mr. DeAngelis have an adversarial working relationship, and board Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler had pressured the two to reach agreement on how to run the office, which did not happen.

Mr. Stainbrook said the organizational chart, approved 3-1 with his dissent, conflicts with state law. The Ohio Revised Code specifies that the director administers the elections office and the deputy director, if the board chooses to have one, assists the director.

He cited advice from the board’s legal counsel that state law does not provide for an equal relationship between the director and deputy director.

“This vote was retaliation against the director because she [Ms. Gallagher] was doing her job to make sure the Lucas County Board of Elections was conducting fair and nonpartisan elections,” Mr. Stainbrook said.

Board member John Irish, a Democrat, said elections boards have been told that “joint ownership” by the director and deputy director is an acceptable practice in Ohio, and was in use in Butler County.

“Right now I think this is best for our board. We’ve been haggling about this for more than a year. It’s time we moved on,” Mr. Irish said.

When Ms. Gallagher asked what employees should do if they receive conflicting directions from her and Mr. DeAngelis, Mr. Irish said, “I hope, as two managers, you wouldn’t do that.”

Mr. Rothenbuhler said the previous arrangement had failed.

“It’s time to put our toe in the water and see if something can work,” he said. “It can’t be more futile than the efforts we’ve had in the prior year.”

The board also voted 3-1 to appoint Robert Walden, Jr., a Democrat, to manage the computerized Global Election Management System that records and counts votes.

The board voted 4-0 to promote Noel Hahn, a Republican and the Republican information technology supervisor, to manage the Data Information Management System that handles voter registrations.

In a letter to Secretary of State Husted written May 7, Prosecutor Bates expressed frustration with a board roiled by staff dissension and demands on her office to conduct investigations.

“While you appear to be reluctant to undertake further involvement with the board, circumstances compel me to request you to please exercise your authority over the board pursuant to your statutory obligations and duties under [the] Ohio Revised Code,” Ms. Bates wrote.

Mr. Husted declined to reinstate his oversight.

“My office’s prior involvement with the board was to ensure that the 2012 election was properly administered,” Mr. Husted wrote.

He advised Ms. Bates to contact police if she hears any criminal allegations, and to contact his office regarding any elections-related misconduct.

By law, the four-member elections board is split, with two Republicans and two Democrats. In recent months, Republican board member Anthony DeGidio has sided with Democrats Mr. Irish and Mr. Rothenbuhler on many votes against Mr. Stainbrook.

The split occurred after Mr. Stainbrook supported efforts to remove Mr. DeGidio from the board on grounds that he had moved to Youngstown. Mr. Irish and Mr. Rothenbuhler have voted to allow him to remain because he intends to maintain residency in Lucas County.

In other action, the board certified candidates for the 2013 primary and general elections: Timothy Zale and Dennis Walendzak for Oregon City Council, Steve Zuber and Frank Erme for Washington Local Board of Education, and Vallie Bowman-English for Toledo Municipal Court.

Staff writer Ignazio Messina contributed to this report.

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