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Published: Tuesday, 4/23/2013

Lucas County Board of Elections to investigate harassment, bans secret recordings

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

The Lucas County Board of Elections split 3-1 today on votes to prohibit employees or board members from secretly recording conversations and to ask the Lucas County human resources department to investigate an allegation of harassment in the office.

The board also debated how to proceed with another challenge to the voter registration of Republican board member Anthony DeGidio.

On the secret recording issue, Republican Jon Stainbrook cast the no vote, while Mr. DeGidio and Democrats Jon Irish and Ron Rothenbuhler voted yes. Mr. Irish introduced the motion, but didn't indicate what prompted the ban on secret recording.

Mr. Stainbrook objected that the policy can't be enforced, pointing out that a board member can be terminated only by the Secretary of State. Mr. Irish didn't dispute the point, but said the rest of the policy is enforceable.

The investigation of a harassment complaint involves Director Meghan Gallagher and Executive Assistant Gina Kaczala, both Republicans. In a written complaint dated April 2, Ms. Kaczala said she was intimidated by Ms. Gallagher on Feb. 15.

She said Ms. Gallagher called her in her office, demanding to know what Ms. Kaczala had talked about with Keith Cunningham, the former "special master" assigned to the office when it was under oversight, and James Ruvolo, a former board member who was appointed by Secretary of State Jon Husted to evaluate the running of the county office. Ms. Kaczala said Ms. Gallagher was "flailing her arms," and Ms. Kaczala said she left the office in fear for her "personal well-being."

The second incident was March 21 when she said Ms. Gallagher walked up behind where she was sitting in the office, pushed her to one side, and physically took the computer mouse from her hand, which she characterized as "physical assault."

Ms. Gallagher did not immediately respond when asked for a comment.

Mr. Stainbrook objected to bringing the county human resources department in on the investigation, predicting it would be biased because of what he contended is a goal by the Democrats on the Lucas County Board of Commissioners to fire Ms. Gallagher. Mr. Stainbrook requested Mr. Rothenbuhler admit that he had been told by Democratic Commissioner Pete Gerken to fire Ms. Gallagher.

"It's clear that several people have told you the county commissioners want Meghan Gallagher terminated so they can continue the Democratic Party control of Lucas County," Mr. Stainbrook said. "It's a biased body." He pointed out that no police report alleging assault has been filed.

Mr. Rothenbuhler, who is also the chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party, said he couldn't recall being told that by Mr. Gerken.

"I'm not on trial here and I'm not answering any further questions. I'm tired of being under attack," Mr. Rothenbuhler said.

The board cancelled a second hearing that had been scheduled for Wednesday into whether Mr. DeGidio is a valid registered voter in Lucas County, an issue that could result in Mr. DeGidio being forced off the four-person board.

A hearing held March 27 ended with the board splitting 2-1 not to cancel Mr. DeGidio's registration, with Mr. Stainbrook casting the no vote and Mr. DeGidio absent.

Mr. Rothenbuhler said the hearing was cancelled because Mr. Irish was not available. According to Mr. Rothenbuhler, the first hearing determined that Mr. DeGidio had an intent to return to Lucas County from Youngstown where he has been living. He said the board should have also determined whether Mr. DeGidio has an address to return to.

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



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