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Published: Wednesday, 3/20/2013

BOARD OF ELECTIONS

Another attempt to fire pair falls short

Director rebuts negative report

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Meghan Gallagher, director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, hands binders to board member Jon Stainbrook, left, and board chairman Ron Rothenbuhler during the board's meeting. Meghan Gallagher, director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, hands binders to board member Jon Stainbrook, left, and board chairman Ron Rothenbuhler during the board's meeting.
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Meghan Gallagher, the director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, and Daniel DeAngelis, the deputy director, survived yet another effort to fire them Tuesday, as the result of a negative appraisal of the board’s management by consultants hired by Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Both were placed under a one-month deadline to work out a practical organizational chart or face another threat to their jobs.

During the same meeting, Republican board member Jon Stainbrook pressed his claim that fellow Republican board member Tony DeGidio has left Lucas County and now commutes to board meetings from Youngstown.

“If you lived in this community you’d know what’s going on, but you don’t know. You’re an absentee board member who doesn’t even live in Lucas County,” Mr. Stainbrook told Mr. DeGidio after Mr. DeGidio leveled criticism at Ms. Gallagher over the “hundreds of hours” he said she spent writing a response to the report from Mr. Husted’s consultants, James Ruvolo of Lucas County and Jonathan Allison of Franklin County.

The Ruvolo-Allison report, released Feb. 25, accused the board of a lack of policies governing personnel, records retention, budgeting, and inventory control, as well as an atmosphere of mistrust and paranoia, and recommended the director, a Republican, and the deputy director, a Democrat, be fired. Board member Mr. Stainbrook and Democratic board Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler refused to fire the two, saying that would not be a solution.

The motion to fire the two came from Democratic board member John Irish, who said there was an attempt to erroneously convince Secretary of State Husted that “everything at the board of elections is hunky-dory.”

Mr. Irish’s motion came after Ms. Gallagher distributed a lengthy rebuttal to the secretary of state’s consultants’ report, along with a 5-inch thick binder containing the many policies that the consultants’ report claimed were lacking at the county elections office.

In her response to the report, which Mr. DeAngelis declined to sign, Ms. Gallagher accepted some of the consultants’ criticism but said the report overlooked policies that have long been in existence. In addition, she said some of the problems of the board were actually caused by the “special masters” assigned by Mr. Husted from August, 2012, through February, 2013, to oversee daily operations of the troubled board.

Mr. DeAngelis did not explain why he didn't sign the report, but the two are known to have a tense working relationship.

Ms. Gallagher said many of the problems in the office are part of a culture that existed long before she and Mr. DeAngelis were hired. One point on which she and the consultants agreed is that the board lacks a defined chain of command. She said that even though she is the director, she is prevented from being able to make staff do their jobs in some cases.

For example, Ms. Gallagher wrote that the office has new policies for electronic record storage, but “despite repeated requests from senior management, employees refuse to place their documents in a centralized location which would allow all employees access to this publicly held information.”

Joining Mr. Irish in criticism of Ms. Gallagher’s rebuttal was Mr. DeGidio, who accused her of developing the report to defend herself. Ms. Gallagher rejected that charge, saying the Ruvolo-Allison report was aimed at the board, not her, and she was defending the board.

Despite his apparent agreement with Mr. Irish, Mr. DeGidio said he couldn’t second the motion to fire the director and the deputy director or vote on it because he said he had a conflict. Ms. Gallagher has filed a grievance against him with the Toledo Bar Association in an unrelated injury lawsuit on which he represented her.

“I’ve been conflicted out,” Mr. DeGidio said.

The board set March 27 as the date for a residency hearing to determine if Mr. DeGidio is validly registered to vote in Lucas County. A challenge that was filed Monday contends that Mr. DeGidio lives in Youngstown, a claim Mr. DeGidio is disputing.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058. Follow him on Twitter @TomFTroy.



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