A top official of the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office reported this week that he found it “troubling” that former Lucas County Board of Elections member Tony DeGidio allegedly discussed with Lucas County Republican Chairman Jon Stainbrook dismissing a bill owed to Mr. DeGidio for legal services to the Lucas County Republican Party in exchange for a judgeship.
But it wasn’t the first time the Secretary of State’s Office was tipped off that Mr. DeGidio allegedly tried to leverage official action for a paycheck.
Former Lucas County Elections Director Meghan Gallagher complained almost a year ago that Mr. DeGidio was “harassing” her and threatening to fire her unless she got him a job.
“Mr. DeGidio has on several occasions also used his position on the board and threatened me with termination if I did not help him get a visa for someone, help him get work with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, help him obtain another board seat through an appointment with the governor’s office and to have the Lucas County Republican Party pay him $100,000.00 for the volunteer legal work he had performed.
“Mr. DeGidio has also stated that he hates American women and that he wants women to be subservient.
“He threatened me with termination if I ever appeared to not be submissive to him or failed to do everything he ‘directs’ me to do,” Ms. Gallagher wrote in her June 24, 2013, email.
Mr. Stainbrook provided a copy of the email to The Blade on Thursday.
The Gallagher email went to Secretary of State Jon Husted and seven other secretary of state officials, including deputy assistant secretary of state Matthew Damschroder, who was the hearing officer in an investigation that led Thursday to Mr. Stainbrook, Mr. DeGidio, and Democrat Ron Rothenbuhler being removed from the board for failures in carrying out their duties.
In response to her email, Mr. Husted said Ms. Gallagher’s allegations fell under the jurisdiction of Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates, and the complaint was forwarded to her on July 1, 2013, a copy of which was provided to The Blade.
But Ms. Bates said Friday she never saw the referral.
“We never got anything from them,” Ms. Bates said. “If we ever got a letter like that we would have dealt with it.”
In a 27-page opinion summarizing the alleged dysfunction and neglect of duty reigning in the Lucas County Board of Elections, Mr. Damschroder wrote that he found “troubling” a claim made by Mr. DeGidio in a recent hearing.
“Mr. DeGidio alleged he and Mr. Stainbrook had discussed an agreement where the Lucas County Republican Party would recommend him to a judgeship, and in exchange, the legal bills owed by the party would ‘go away,’ ” Mr. Damschroder reported.
Mr. Stainbrook denied the allegation, pointing out that no evidence was provided, including any bills from Mr. DeGidio.
He defended the party’s endorsements for judicial vacancies as conducted through blue-ribbon screening committees.
Mr. DeGidio did not return a phone call seeking comment Friday.
Mr. DeGidio, a lawyer under suspension for an ethical violation, was formerly a close political ally of Mr. Stainbrook and Ms. Gallagher. In July, 2011, with Mr. Stainbrook’s recommendation, Mr. DeGidio was appointed to a paid position as one of the two Republican members of the four-person governing board of the Lucas County Board of Elections.
But starting in early 2013, Mr. DeGidio fell out with Mr. Stainbrook and Ms. Gallagher. Ms. Gallagher was removed as director on March 4 when Mr. DeGidio added his vote to those of Mr. Rothenbuhler and Democrat John Irish to replace her with the current director, Gina Kaczala.
In her lengthy email to Mr. Husted and Mr. Damschroder, Ms. Gallagher complained that Mr. DeGidio harassed her sexually, violating Lucas County Board of Elections policy and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Ms. Gallagher’s complaint was one of many that have flown in the Lucas County Board of Elections office for the last several years, a circumstance noted by Mr. Damschroder in his report.
“This toxic environment that is at the heart of the problems at the Lucas County Board of Elections is the worst dynamic I have seen or heard of in my experience as an election administrator in Ohio,” Mr. Damschroder wrote.
Two months before the Gallagher memo, Ms. Bates wrote to Mr. Husted imploring him to take stronger leadership of the fractious elections office.
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