Jim Hartley, a Republican member of the Lucas County Board of Elections, said Monday his Democratic counterpart, Joshua Hughes, reneged on an agreement the two had to approve a new Republican staff director for the elections board.
Mr. Hughes, who is also the county Democratic chairman, confirmed that he and Mr. Hartley met before the board’s March 3 reorganization meeting, along with Lucas County Republican Chairman Jon Stainbrook and GOP Central Committee Chairman Meghan Gallagher. But he said Mr. Hartley wouldn’t tell him who their choice was for elections director.
“I looked him right in the eye. We shook on it. Until five minutes before that reorganization meeting I thought we had an agreement that we could go forward with,” Mr. Hartley said.
He said the deal they agreed to was that Mr. Hartley would drop his list of complaints he wanted investigated against the board director or against the two Democratic board members. In exchange, the Democrats would allow Republicans to appoint a director of their choice to replace the current Republican director, Gina Kaczala, who has been in charge for three years.
Mr. Hughes acknowledged they had a meeting but said he did not feel they had a binding agreement because the Republicans didn’t say who they planned to appoint.
He said he suspected that Mr. Hartley was planning to nominate Mr. Stainbrook, who was fired from his position as board member nearly three years ago by Secretary of State Jon Husted for contributing to a culture of dysfunction.
“It was very clear that Jon Stainbrook and the former board members created a culture in which voter confidence in our board of elections had eroded to being virtually nonexistent. So I couldn’t in good conscience support Mr. Stainbrook for reappointment to the very board from which he was removed three years ago unless there had been significant changes in circumstances. Upon investigation I found that was not the case,” Mr. Hughes said.
During the March 3 elections board meeting, Mr. Hartley and fellow Republican Bruce Saferin nominated Mr. Stainbrook three times. When the Democratic board members refused to support Mr. Stainbrook as the staff director in the $94,934-per-year job, Mr. Hartley offered Anson Bowe, a former tugboat engineer living in Delta, in Fulton County. Both nominations ended in 2-2 party-line tie votes.
Under state law, the board has to vote and tie five times for a director nominee before it can be sent to the Ohio Secretary of State to break the tie. At that point, Mr. Stainbrook took himself out of contention and Mr. Hartley and Dr. Saferin went forward for the requisite five tie votes offering Mr. Bowe’s name.
Mr. Hughes and Brenda Hill, the other Democratic board member, said in a memo sent Friday that they could not support Mr. Bowe’s nomination because they did not have enough information about him. Mr. Husted is expected to break that 2-2 tie vote soon.
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