Former Democratic Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner charged Ohio taxpayers more than $33,000 to serve on a “transparency committee” looking into problems with the Lucas County Board of Elections.
The bill from Ms. Brunner, a Columbus lawyer, came to $33,108, and was provided to The Blade in response to a public information request.
Ms. Brunner charged $350 per hour for her services, which included six trips to Toledo.
She submitted receipts for one night at the Grand Plaza Hotel in Toledo, for $111.83, and for three meals at Fricker’s at the Field, Chipotle, and Jimmy John’s eateries. Her bill from Fricker’s in Toledo’s Warehouse District on April 3 was reduced by $3 to exclude a glass of merlot.
Lucas County Republican Chairman Jon Stainbrook, who was removed from the elections board June 5 after the transparency committee review, obtained the same documentation on Ms. Brunner’s billing.
On Thursday he criticized the payment as abdication of responsibility by Secretary of State Jon Husted, who is a Republican and is endorsed by Mr. Stainbrook’s local party.
He said he was told by the secretary of state’s office that the transparency committee would serve voluntarily.
He also claimed that the secretary of state’s staff was not responsive to his complaints about mismanagement.
“When somebody calls this a transparency committee, yet they tell us this is being done on a volunteer basis, the lies are flying fast and furious,” Mr. Stainbrook said. “Jon Husted outsourced his job to Jennifer Brunner for $33,000.”
Matt McClellan, spokesman for Mr. Husted, disagreed that Lucas County has been neglected by Mr. Husted, saying his office spent more time on Lucas County than the other 87 counties combined.
He said he is aware of no one in the secretary of state’s office telling Mr. Stainbrook that the transparency committee would serve at no cost.
“There has been a cost to the incompetency that has existed at the Lucas County Board of Elections. Unfortunately we had to spend a lot of time and resources to fix the problems there,” Mr. McClellan said.
He said the secretary of state expected to pay all four, but committee members Jon Allison, James Ruvolo, and Scott Borgemenke volunteered their time.
Mr. McClellan said the elections board has functioned smoothly since the housecleaning, as evidenced by Tuesday’s election.
Ms. Brunner, who was secretary of state from 2007 to 2011, said Mr. Husted’s office signed a contract with her.
“I’m an attorney in private practice. It took a significant amount of time. This is a client for me,” she said. She said she tried to economize, such as by using travel time to review documents.
The transparency committee, made up of two Democrats and two Republicans with elections experience, heard unsworn testimony in four public day-long meetings in Toledo.
Citing a “culture of dysfunction,” Mr. Husted removed Mr. Stainbrook, fellow Republican Tony DeGidio, and Democrat Ron Rothenbuhler from the board, leaving Democrat John Irish in place.
Mr. Husted appointed Brenda Hill, the choice of the Lucas County Democratic Party, to replace Mr. Rothenbuhler, but he rejected Ben Roberts and Kelly Bensman, the nominees of the Lucas County Republican Party, and instead appointed Mark Wagoner, Sr., and Peter Handwork.
Mr. Stainbrook’s executive committee has filed a request with the Ohio Supreme Court for an order to have Mr. Husted’s appointments reversed.