A hearing officer for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is recommending permanently removing James Hartley from his appointment as a Lucas County Board of Elections member.
Mr. Hartley, of Sylvania, a former association executive who was appointed to the elections board a year ago, was suspended in March.
Hearing officer Mark Landes, in a recommendation today to Mr. Husted, said Mr. Hartley showed poor judgment on multiple occasions and a willingness to return to the “dysfunction” of 2014.
Mr. Husted, a Republican, said Mr. Hartley’s attempt to name Lucas County Republican Chairman Jon Stainbrook to the nearly $95,000-a-year director’s job could have marked a “shocking return to the chaos that plagued” the board in the past. Mr. Husted had removed Mr. Stainbrook along with two others from the board three years ago.
The suspension came about a year after Mr. Hartley’s appointment to the four-person governing board — a tenure marked by frequent clashes with former Republican director Gina Kaczala. Mr. Husted said Mr. Hartley was wrong to try to replace Ms. Kaczala with Mr. Stainbrook.
Mr. Landes said he believes Mr. Hartley engaged in cell phone and text communication with Mr. Stainbrook during a board meeting. Mr. Landes also faulted Mr. Hartley for attempting in August, 2016, to remove Ms. Kaczala as director with the presidential election process just getting started.
He also said Mr. Hartley engaged in a meeting with Democratic board member Joshua Hughes in possible violation of the open meetings act.
“I conclude that board member James Hartley has exhibited multiple instances of poor judgment and an inclination to returning to the Board's dysfunctional past. His conduct since appointment as a board member in 2016 shows a pattern of disturbing behavior allowing the inference of neglecting the duty owed to the Lucas County electors,” Mr. Landes said.
Mr. Hartley was not immediately available for comment.
In his previous response to Mr. Husted’s suspension, Mr. Hartley wrote that he did nothing to warrant his permanent removal. He said he believed Mr. Stainbrook would have performed well absent others involved in the board’s prior problems.
Mr. Hartley also “vehemently” objected to suggestions he engaged in something “nefarious” by trying to negotiate a “quid pro quo” with a Democratic member. He said he was trying to work out a political “compromise,” not a “deal.”
Mr. Husted is expected to issue a final decision soon. The process to replace a board member is that the local party, Republican in the case of Mr. Hartley’s position, recommends a nominee to Mr. Husted.
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