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Published: Monday, 4/7/2014 - Updated: 1 year ago

Panel named to ‘shed light’ on election board woes

Stainbrook Stainbrook

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has appointed a bipartisan committee to address issues involving the Lucas County Board of Elections and determine whether the office is prepared for the upcoming primary election.

Husted Husted

A directive was issued Monday by Mr. Husted to create a “transparency” group to “shed light on board operations” and “ensure an open and effective elections process.”

Named to the committee were Scott Borgemenke, former assistant secretary of state, Jennifer Brunner, a former secretary of state, James Ruvolo of Lucas County, and Jonathan Allison of Franklin County.

The committee will convene at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Lucas County Board of Elections during a meeting of the bipartisan board.

Republican board members Jon Stainbrook and Tony DeGidio and their Democratic counterparts, Ron Rothenbuhler and John Irish, are expected to attend the meeting and any subsequent hearings, according to a news release.

“The voters of Lucas County deserve first-class elections, and I will take whatever action I deem necessary to make sure that becomes a reality,” Mr. Husted said in the release. “It is my expectation that the board will fully cooperate with the transparency committee, as they will help the board do what they seemingly cannot: govern themselves, set aside partisan and personal bickering, and cooperate in the interest of elections administration.”

Two of the committee members have a history with the county elections board.

Mr. Ruvolo and Mr. Allison wrote a report in 2013 on the board of elections at the request of Mr. Husted because of problems in the office. The consultants’ report accused the board of a lack of policies governing personnel, records retention, budgeting, and inventory control, as well as an atmosphere of mistrust and paranoia. In their report, they also recommended firing the director, a Republican, and the deputy director, a Democrat.

Also, Mr. Ruvolo, a longtime Democratic worker, was appointed to the board of elections in December, 2011, but he resigned six weeks later.

“Despite the guidance and support elections officials in Lucas County have received from my office in recent years, it has become apparent that there is a severe lack of communication among board members and between the board and its staff,” Mr. Husted said in the release. “Steps must now be taken to force public accountability and open dialogue to focus on finding local solutions to local problems.”

Mr. Stainbrook, a Republican, said he welcomes the review by the transparency committee.

“I think [the committee] validates what I have been asking for, which is to make sure we are ready for this election because the voters of Lucas County deserve a fair and accurate election,” he said. “I think it is a good thing and it is what is needed to make sure what is on point.”

Mr. Rothenbuhler, elections board chairman, said he would fully cooperate with Mr. Husted’s directive.

“I want things to improve,” he said.

Ms. Brunner, who was secretary of state from 2007 to 2011, and Mr. Borgemenke, a former assistant under Mr. Husted, and others met last week with board of elections staff after Mr. Stainbrook made claims about misuse of taxpayer dollars, failing to follow proper election procedures, and showing favoritism toward Democrats.

The allegations followed the March 4 removal of Meghan Gallagher as elections director in a 3-1 vote by the board. Ms. Gallagher, a Republican and ally of Mr. Stainbrook, was recommended for removal in the consultants’ 2013 report by Mr. Ruvolo and Mr. Allison.

Mr. Rothenbuhler said he has questions about the timing of Mr. Stainbrook’s complaints and whether the issues he raises are connected to Ms. Gallagher’s departure.

“Were things falling apart before or is he exaggerating?” he said. “The wheels didn’t fall off this thing overnight.”

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

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