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Published: Friday, 10/25/2013

Elections board: No move yet on booth official

Man in charge of recruiting GOP poll workers arrested on drug charges

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

The Lucas County Board of Elections opted today to take no immediate action against its official in charge of recruiting Republican poll workers after learning that he had been arrested three weeks ago on drug charges.

Matthew Toepfer, 28, of 5227 Belpre Dr., the Republican booth official, was charged Oct. 3 by Toledo Police with allowing his vehicle to be used in the commission of a felony drug abuse offense, a misdemeanor.

Mr. Toepfer's passenger, Nathan Baldwin, 23, of 4138 Brogan Dr., was charged with possession of less than a gram of heroin and a syringe. The arrests took place about 6 p.m. at Monroe Street and Detroit Avenue after police observed the vehicle leave a "known drug house" near Delaware and Auburn avenues.

According to the police report, a smell of marijuana came from the car and Mr. Toepfer told officers he knew that Mr. Baldwin had purchased heroin.

Mr. Toepfer pleaded not guilty in Toledo Municipal Court Oct. 7. Mr. Baldwin's case was continued to Nov. 13.

Mr. Toepfer's attorney, Jerome Phillips, said Mr. Toepfer disputes the allegations in the police report, including that he knew Mr. Baldwin was buying drugs, and has requested copies of audio or video tapes of the alleged statements.

During an acrimonious meeting that lasted more than an hour, the board considered a motion by Republican member Anthony DeGidio to suspend Mr. Toepfer with pay until his case is adjudicated, but there was no second to the motion.

Elections Director Meghan Gallagher said suspending Mr. Toepfer would leave the elections staff without the person in charge of communicating with 700 Republican poll workers in the election scheduled for Nov. 5, including delivering phones and "grips" - the cases that hold elections material. She said Mr. Toepfer has been doing his job effectively.

"I have a lot of concerns with not having that position and not having that employee there as we are so close to an election," Ms. Gallagher said.

Dan DeAngelis, the Democratic deputy director, said, "I will admit that the timing for his arrest for these serious charges was very inconvenient to the board and its operations."

Republican board member Jon Stainbrook, who is also Lucas County Republican chairman, provided the rest of the board with a document showing that Mr. Toepfer had taken and passed a drug test, and he urged the board to order additional tests, but no vote was taken.

John Irish, a Democratic board member, asked Ms. Gallagher why she had not notified the board members as soon as she became aware of the arrest. Ms. Gallagher said the board's drug policy states only that an employee who is arrested must notify the director within five days, which she said happened.

Pressed by Mr. DeGidio, Ms. Gallagher said she didn't recall the date that Mr. Toepfer notified her or whether she used a county-owned phone. Board members were officially notified on Oct. 19, according to Mr. DeAngelis.

Brenda Meyer, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor, recommended the board take no disciplinary action against Mr. Toepfer until after the charges are resolved in court.

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419--724-6058 or an Twitter @TomFTroy.

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