Republican Scott Borgemenke, chairman of the transparency committee appointed by the Ohio secretary of state’s office, asks questions during a Lucas County Board of Elections meeting in Toledo.
The Lucas County Board of Elections and some of its top employees were grilled for nearly nine hours on Tuesday by a state-appointed “transparency committee” on its apparent discourse, dysfunction, and occasional disregard of procedure.
The four-member, blue-ribbon-style transparency committee, which met at the elections board’s office for the second time at the behest of Secretary of State Jon Husted, interrogated the elections board members, Director Gina Kaczala, and Deputy Director Dan DeAngelis on reports of voting machines not properly tested before early voting began April 1; security of computer passwords; personality conflicts among board members and staff; policy violations; fired employees, and a wide range of other issues.
Each member of the transparency committee chastised the elections board at one point, and each had at least one heated exchange with Jon Stainbrook, a Republican elections board member.
“Holy Toledo ... unfortunately, what this is showing is that we can’t figure out under the current circumstances how to have a meeting or put an agenda together,” said Jon Allison, a committee member and Republican lawyer from Columbus.
“I am not trying to be a jerk or judge people … but this is just complete dysfunction,” Mr. Allison said. “If I were a voter in Lucas County looking at this, seeing that you guys can’t even figure out how to run the basic stuff here — it’s just very disheartening.”
Republican Scott Borgemenke, a former assistant secretary of state who heads the transparency committee, blasted the board on several occasions — particularly Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler, a Democrat, and Mr. Stainbrook.
Mr. Borgemenke said it was frustrating that the committee had to ask questions about basic policies, such as how items are placed on agendas, for an hour before the May 6 election was specifically discussed.
“It is extremely frustrating to hear the Abbott and Costello routine that we are getting from everybody,” he said. “These are personality problems and personnel issues and you are not getting down to these issues.
“No one is in a good mood here today, particularly not me,” Mr. Borgemenke added.
Elections board member and county GOP Chairman Jon Stainbrook was involved in heated exchanges with the state appointees.
Mr. Stainbrook claimed he encountered roadblocks from Mr. Rothenbuhler when trying to place items on meeting agendas.
Elections workers told the transparency committee that reports of voting machines at the early-vote center not being tested were false.
“That is patently untrue,” said Robert Walden, Jr., a Democrat who manages the computerized Global Election Management System that records and counts votes. “The machines were fully tested and all tapes were checked before the first vote.”
The transparency committee is expected to return for a third day of questioning next week. It also includes Democrat Jennifer Brunner, a former secretary of state, and Democrat Jim Ruvolo, a former member of the county elections board.
Mr. Stainbrook shot back several times — taking aim at Mr. Ruvolo and Ms. Brunner.
There were long discussions over two elections-board employees — Republican Booth Official Matt Toepfer and Elections Manager Hans Schnapp, neither of whom were present. Mr. Toepfer has been out sick for two weeks while Mr. Schnapp was not at work for an undisclosed reason.
The transparency committee made several requests that both men attend their next meeting, prompting elections board member Tony DeGidio to suggest issuing subpoenas.
Ms. Kaczala and Mr. DeAngelis told the committee that Mr. Toepfer supervised a former employee, Melissa Brogan, with whom he had a child. The director and deputy director fired Ms. Brogan, a seasonal Republican booth official, last month for circulating petitions while out on sick time.
Ms. Brunner drew Mr. Stainbrook’s ire for calling Ms. Brogan the “baby mama” of her supervisor. Mr. Borgemenke said it was not meant to be disrespectful and raised the question of why management did not reassign the two employees once their personal relationship became known.
When the committee met last week, it was disclosed that the elections board had not forwarded late-filed campaign finance reports to the Ohio Elections Commission in more than two years. Board employee Lori Jacek reaffirmed that to the transparency committee Tuesday.
Mr. Stainbrook said there were attempts to forward those reports to the state commission, but motions to do so were tabled three times last year at Mr. Rothenbuhler’s request.
That brought to light another issue — that the elections board had not followed Robert’s Rules of Order when it did not vote on motions to table something.
The elections board plans a special meeting Thursday before the transparency committee’s return next week.