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Published: Tuesday, 3/4/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

Elections board ousts director

Gallagher loses vote 3-1; aide Kaczala is chosen for top job

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ron Rothenbuhler, left, chairman of the Lucas County Board of Elections, swears in Dan DeAngelis as deputy director of the board and Gina Kaczala as the new director as outgoing director Meghan Gallagher and board member Jon Stainbrook leave the room. Ron Rothenbuhler, left, chairman of the Lucas County Board of Elections, swears in Dan DeAngelis as deputy director of the board and Gina Kaczala as the new director as outgoing director Meghan Gallagher and board member Jon Stainbrook leave the room.
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Saying that a change needed to be made to improve employee morale and protect the integrity of the vote process, the Lucas County Board of Elections, on a 3-1 ballot, removed Meghan Gallagher as director of the bipartisan county elections office Tuesday.

Ms. Gallagher was replaced by her administrative assistant, Gina Kaczala, during the board of election’s reorganization meeting in Government Center.

Dan DeAngelis, a Democrat, was retained as deputy director, and Democrat Ron Rothenbuhler was unanimously re-elected as chairman of the four-person board.

Jon Stainbrook, a Republican board member who often clashed with other board members on staff appointments and policies, was the lone no vote in the appointments of both the director and deputy director.

Mr. Stainbrook, acting to protect Ms. Gallagher, said Ms. Kaczala doesn’t meet the minimum qualifications needed to be director and has fallen behind in her duties as board secretary to transcribe minutes of meetings.

He also claimed that Ms. Kaczala made false allegations against Ms. Gallagher in a police report.

“I have absolutely no confidence in Gina Kaczala being capable of running this election for the primary in May. Gina Kaczala has no management skills, no professional ability, and is incapable of telling the truth,” he said. “The voters of Lucas County deserve better.”

After the meeting, Mr. Rothenbuhler said the change was needed because of high employee turnover and low morale in the elections office.

“She is not part of the solution to making this a harmonious workplace,” he said. “She has failed to gather support from board members and the employees.”

It was nearly a year ago that a task force commissioned by Ohio Secretary of State John Husted recommended the removal of Ms. Gallagher and Mr. DeAngelis.

The consultant’s report was critical of the board of elections’ management procedures and called for the implementation of new policies and procedures.

Ms. Gallagher, a longtime friend of Mr. Stainbrook and former elections worker, became director in March, 2012, after the former director, Republican Ben Roberts, quit after a tenure of less than one year.

“I am very thankful I had the opportunity to serve the voters of Lucas County. It has been an honor and a privilege,” Ms. Gallagher said.

Tony DeGidio, one of two Republicans on the board, said he believes that Ms. Kaczala has the skills and experience to improve operations and has proven she can work with both Democrats and Republicans.

“This is the right way to go to cut down on the number of problems,” he said.

Ms. Kaczala, who was the unsuccessful Republican candidate for county auditor in 2010, will be paid an annual salary of $85,595. Her term as director will expire in two years.

She said she was anxious to start her new job, promising to work with Mr. DeAngelis as a team and make the office accountable to the voters.

“I am going to bring consistency to this office. We have, in the last few years, dealt with a division, and there have been problems with the public not being informed the way they should be.”

John Irish, a Democrat and board member, said a change was needed to boost morale.

“Ms. Gallagher was not a good fit for our office,” he said. “I think it was affecting productivity. I think she was not working well with the board.”

As examples of his concerns with the former director, Mr. Irish pointed to the Level 3 snow emergency on Feb. 5 when Ms. Gallagher refused to close the elections office, even though boards of elections in other counties were shut down.

He also said Ms. Gallagher changed the established policy for accessing emails in the office without getting approval from the board.

“Recent things that have happened dictate a change in leadership,” Mr. Irish said. “I think it was one important step for us to take.”

Mr. Stainbrook said Ms. Gallagher followed the Ohio secretary of state’s directive for operating during the snowstorm on Feb. 5, which was the filing deadline for the May primary.

He said Ms. Gallagher was in charge of the office during seven elections and “tirelessly served voters with no support from the other three board members.”

“This has nothing to do with Ms. Gallagher’s job performance. She has had to endure months of harassment by board members Rothenbuhler, Irish, and DeGidio and County Commissioner Pete Gerken,” Mr. Stainbrook said in a statement sent to The Blade.

“The Democrat board members, Tony DeGidio and Pete Gerken cut a deal. Rothenbuhler wants to stay in charge of the Democrat party. Gerken wants control of the early vote center. DeGidio wants to keep his paycheck and health insurance. This is all about crooked politics and not about fair elections."

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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