A “transparency committee” appointed by the Ohio Secretary of State conducted a nearly daylong inquiry into office politics and dysfunction in the Lucas County Board of Elections on Wednesday, exposing a potentially disruptive manpower shortfall of pollworkers on Election Day but no evidence of a tainted election.
The four-member, blue-ribbon-style transparency committee, which met at the Board of Elections’ office, did not say whether it would make recommendations about personnel or disciplinary actions to Secretary of State Jon Husted.
“My plan is to make sure the election happens properly in May. That’s the only thing I know,” said transparency committee member Jon Allison, a Republican lawyer, of Columbus.
The investigation is occurring at the same time that the elections office is gearing up for the May 6 election, for which early voting is well under way.
The committee kept the elections director and deputy director, Republican Gina Kaczala and Democrat Daniel DeAngelis, for most of the day and is expected to return for another day of questioning next week.
Among the disclosures:
● The board has not forwarded late-filed campaign finance reports to the Ohio Elections Commission in more than two years.
● A Republican management employee who quit the same day that former Republican Elections Director Meghan Gallagher was fired last month allegedly erased the hard drive on the computer in his office.
● Republicans are short 45 pollworkers needed to staff 352 precinct polling places on Election Day.
The transparency committee is made up of Mr. Allison; fellow Republican Scott Borgemenke, who is a former assistant secretary of state; Democrat Jennifer Brunner, who is a former secretary of state, and Democrat Jim Ruvolo, a former member of the Lucas County Board of Elections.
An issue that kept resurfacing was the board’s failure for at least 2½ years to forward late-filed campaign finance reports to the Ohio Elections Commission.
“It’s a mandatory responsibility,” Mr. Borgemenke said.
“I was not aware of anything being violated. I don’t see them on the agenda,” elections board Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler responded.
Ms. Brunner predicted it will be a notable event in Columbus when all the accumulated late-filed reports are finally acted on.
Often, the day’s testimony appeared to focus attention and blame on Republican board member Jon Stainbrook, whose ally, Ms. Gallagher, was removed as director one month ago.
“I really don’t like to have someone question where [another board member] lives and why are they late,” Mr. Rothenbuhler said, a clear reference to Mr. Stainbrook, who often criticizes fellow Republican Tony DeGidio because he commuted from Youngstown for a year or more while remaining a member of the Lucas County board.
Mr. DeGidio said that he now lives in Lucas County.
Once allies, Mr. Stainbrook and Mr. DeGidio are open enemies on the elections board. Mr. Stainbrook said their relationship collapsed when he began complaining to the secretary of state that Mr. DeGidio had moved to Youngstown.
“That’s when he started voting with the Democrats,” Mr. Stainbrook said. “That makes me the only real Republican on the board.”
Mr. DeGidio said that was not the reason he began voting against Mr. Stainbrook on some issues.
“I was being asked to vote on things that were not true,” Mr. DeGidio said.
He said the absence of three Republican management employees since Ms. Gallagher’s departure is the board’s biggest problem.
“Employees who don’t want to come to work but claim they still have a job, they’re purposefully and intentionally upsetting the work of the board,” Mr. DeGidio said.