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Published: Wednesday, 8/29/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Democratic spot opens on board of elections

Cosme to be official of child support agency

BY KATE GIAMMARISE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Keila Cosme, left, and John Irish. Keila Cosme, left, and John Irish.
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A member of the Lucas County Board of Elections will take a job with the county next month -- leaving a vacancy on the board that could be filled by John Irish, longtime Democratic Party activist and former party chairman.

The Lucas County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to hire Keila Cosme, a Democratic member of the elections board, to become an administrator at the Lucas County Child Support Enforcement Agency next month. That leaves a vacancy on the board.

Democratic Party Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler said he will nominate Mr. Irish to fill the spot; the party's executive committee is to meet Sept. 12 to vote on the move.

Mr. Irish, 64, a South Toledo resident, has been involved in local campaigns and elections for about four decades, starting in 1971 with the campaign of former Toledo Mayor Harry Kessler, now deceased.

The elections board has had considerable turmoil in recent months.

Republicans and Democrats on the board have clashed so much over personnel, ballot security, and the time and location of early voting that the Ohio secretary of state has stepped in to take over direct control of the agency.

The Lucas County board has sent 19 tie votes to the secretary of state this year. Only Summit County has deadlocked more often, with 22 ties.

Mr. Irish said Tuesday night that if elected to the board, he would seek to calm the turmoil and bring stability to the agency.

"I don't think it [the upheaval] is good for the public," he said. "I don't think it is good for the board."

Ms. Cosme, a lawyer and former appellate judge, will oversee a group of lawyers at the Lucas County Child Support Enforcement Agency. Her hiring was approved unanimously Tuesday by the three county commissioners.

She will be considered an at-will employee and will not be a union member. She will be paid $38.60 an hour, or $80,288.00 annually, according to the resolution passed Tuesday.

Ms. Cosme has been a member of the elections board since February. She previously was a judge in Ohio's 6th District Court of Appeals and was the first Hispanic woman on an Ohio appellate court.

Prior to that, she was a partner in the Toledo law firm of Cosme, D'Angelo and Szollosi. A 1990 graduate of Boston University and 1994 graduate of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Ms. Cosme is a native of Puerto Rico.

She could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken denied politics played any part in her new role or stepping down from the board.

"We didn't deviate from our regular procedure of hiring," he said. "We posted [the job], got resumes, vetted them."

Brian Cunningham, director of the county's human resources department, said the county received 57 applications for the position, of which 13 met the stated minimum qualifications; of those, five people, including Ms. Cosme, were interviewed.

Prior to being a judge, Ms. Cosme's legal experience primarily involved civil cases with an emphasis on commercial litigation, personal injury, and wrongful-death actions, according to a 2009 article in The Blade.

The position description requires an employee with knowledge of child support laws and regulations in Ohio, although it notes that can "be obtained after employment."

Mr. Rothenbuhler said he is confident his fellow Democrats will elect Mr. Irish.

"I am quite assured that my selection will be approved," he said.

With any vacancy on a county board of elections, a party-nominated replacement is subject to confirmation by the secretary of state's office, according to Matt McClellan, a spokesman for that office.

Contact Kate Giammarise at: kgiammarise@theblade.com or at 419-724-6091, or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.



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