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Published: Friday, 4/22/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

At least 50 apply to run Lucas County elections

Interviews to replace 2 fired leaders soon

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Lucas County Board of Elections Chairman Patrick Kriner says he needs to hire leadership for the elections office soon. Lucas County Board of Elections Chairman Patrick Kriner says he needs to hire leadership for the elections office soon.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

At least 50 people submitted resumes to apply for the vacant jobs of director and deputy director of the Lucas County Board of Elections by the Wednesday deadline set by Board Chairman Patrick Kriner.

Among the applicants are several current employees of the board.

The board has been operating with its two top staff positions vacant since March 25 when the board fired Director Linda Howe and Deputy Director Jeremy Demagall on the instructions of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. That followed an investigation into the board's handling of provisional ballots in the Nov. 2 election.

The selection of a new director and deputy director could get caught up in the ongoing dispute between Lucas County Republican Chairman Jon Stainbrook and the two Republicans who hold seats on the board of elections without his support -- Mr. Kriner and Ben Marsh. Mr. Marsh has announced his resignation effective no later than May 31.

The local board remains under investigation by Mr. Husted for its overall handling of the 2010 general election, and is receiving transitional support -- meaning the remaining staff holds weekly telephone conferences with the Secretary of State's office to prepare for the special election May 3.

Mr. Kriner said he expects to begin interviewing for the vacancies very soon, despite a request by Mr. Stainbrook that the process waits until Mr. Marsh steps down.

"I can't wait until May 31 to start the interview process. I'm going to start as soon as I possibly can. I've got to get some leadership in there," Mr. Kriner said.

He said that the secretary of state's office will have no say in the choice of director or deputy director. However, the secretary of state by law holds a tie-breaking vote if the four-member local board is evenly split.

Despite Mr. Kriner's assertion that he will begin interviews very soon, he may have to get approval from Mr. Husted first.

Matt McClellan, spokesman for Mr. Husted, said Thursday that the secretary of state's office will work with the board in determining the time frame for hiring a new director and deputy director.

Among those filing applications for the job are three current employees of the board -- supervisor LaVera Scott, a voter services manager for the board; Terry Kuhl, information technology team leader, and Michelle Dudley, information technology manager.

Also submitting a resume was Brenda Griffith, who was the regional liaison for former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner until Ms. Brunner's term ended in January. Ms. Griffith is a former member of Defiance City Council. The resume does not identify an address. It includes a long list of prominent local Democrats as contacts, among them Lucas County Commissioners Pete Gerken and Carol Contrada.

Among the applicants is Ben Roberts, of Maumee, who is parliamentarian of the Republican Party under Mr. Stainbrook. Mr. Roberts is a former business analyst for the Dana Corp. and currently is director of campus consolidation for Westside Montessori Center, according to his resume. Mr. Stainbrook said he would support Mr. Roberts for one of the positions.

Ron Rothenbuhler, the Lucas County Democratic chairman and a member of the elections board, could not be reached for comment as to who he supports for the appointments. Under state law, the director and deputy director must be of opposite parties.

Typically, the director and deputy director are chosen in consultation with the local party chairmen. However, Mr. Kriner and Mr. Marsh have been at odds with Mr. Stainbrook in a series of disputes involving board appointments and the way the board runs elections.

Mr. Stainbrook said Thursday that the current board should not be allowed to appoint the two people who likely will oversee the board through the 2011 and 2012 elections without his input.

"Considering the fact that this is the exact same board that oversaw the Sarantou debacle I think that this process of hiring a new director or deputy director should include the Lucas County Republican Party," Mr. Stainbrook said Thursday.

George Sarantou, the endorsed Republican for Lucas County commissioner in the Nov. 2 election, filed an unsuccessful court action after the Nov. 2 election accusing the elections board of miscounting the election by counting flawed provisional ballots. Mr. Sarantou lost the election to Mrs. Contrada by 193 votes after the board counted more than 4,000 provisional ballots.

The former director and deputy director were fired for including 114 provisional ballots that the secretary of state said should not have been counted because they were cast in the wrong precinct. A Blade investigation found that more than 500 provisional votes were counted despite significant flaws in the way the provisional ballots were filled out.

Ms. Howe, who was paid $85,594 a year, started as director in July, 2008. Mr. Demagall, who was paid $83,874, was hired in September, 2008.

Mr. Kriner said he intends to include Mr. Stainbrook in the interviews.

"The Secretary of State's going to help. But I don't envision them participating in the interview process or dictating who we hire," Mr. Kriner said. "I am going to talk to Mr. Stainbrook and see how he can play a role in that discussion."

Contract Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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