The latest salvo in the Montgomery County Board of Elections mayhem is that the directors can’t defend themselves because the evidence of their incompetence is missing.
Sort of like the class slacker saying “it’s not my fault because the dog ate my homework.” Read on from a story that was on the DDN homepage but seems to be missing today:
A search through 11 years of Montgomery County elections records failed to turn up the original hand-written report presented as proof that more than 600 provisional voters in the November 2006 election weren’t given full ballots, elections officials said Wednesday.
“It was either illegally removed or it’s not authentic,” county elections Director Steve Harsman said….
…a copy of a “post election ballot inventory” county officials use to verify used and unused ballots. Administrative documents such as this are locked away at board offices, and the keys are in the possession of a Democrat and a Republican, Harsman said.
The document would be considered a public record and anyone could request a copy, but Harsman said the office has no request on file.
“These are allegations about our key staff. They can’t defend themselves, because the records are missing,” said Greg Gantt, chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Elections. “My concern is, now we have stolen records removed from the board somebody is in possession of. We know they’re in possession of them, because they sent a copy out with the letter.”
The four-member board has called for an independent investigation. Assistant Montgomery County Prosecutor John Cumming confirmed “there will be an investigation,” but would not comment further.
But, let’s be honest- this isn’t the first problem at the Board of Elections- we already know about hiring family members, convicted of rape without a job application.
But, let’s go dig up some really old news: June 18, 2004, the Dayton Daily News reported this:
DAYTON – A former Montgomery County Board of Elections employee has accused the board’s Republican director of violating her federal rights when he reneged on a promise to promote her, then sought her dismissal.
An attorney for former board staffer Jeanette Fenton claims Fenton was fired from her $30,000-a-year job because she was suspected of supporting an effort by challengers to county Republican Chairman John White. Fenton worked as the Republican staffer in the campaign finance office at the board’s downtown location. She also claimed that when she told board Director Chris Heizer she needed to go on maternity leave, Heizer asked if she was going to return to work after the leave was over.
“When she told him that she would, Mr. Heizer told her `Good. Don’t pull any of that [FMLA expletive] with me,’ Fenton’s attorney, Terry W. Posey, wrote this month in a letter to the county board of elections.
The Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers to give employees up to 12 weeks unpaid leave following the birth of a child.
Posey has threatened to file a lawsuit unless the board rehires Fenton with back pay and be awarded $100,000 in damages. Fenton was fired by a unanimous vote of the board of elections April 19. Posey did not return a call seeking comment. Board officials declined comment. Fenton’s situation sheds light on the unique situation created by both political parties at boards of election throughout Ohio. Almost all board employees are political appointees who are given jobs based on their work for the Democratic or Republican parties.
In Montgomery County’s case, the board of elections has 31 employees – 15 filled by Democrats and 16 by Republicans, according to deputy director Steve Harsman.
In practice, when employees have fallen out of favor with party officials, they have been quietly removed from their jobs. The board hired Fenton in 2001.
Most boards of election employees in Ohio are at-will employees of the boards and can be fired any time, according to a spokesman for Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.
Fenton was paid $30,000 to go away. That money came out of the taxpayers’ pockets- for the mistakes of political hacks being given serious jobs.
No, the problems at the Board of Elections won’t go away- just like the disgruntled former worker, who had access to the storage lockers where the incriminating evidence is stored. I’m sure we’ll see plenty more come out.
I’ve heard many times, from many different people, that there were some Diebold voting machines that were sold for cash that was then funneled into political party coffers. I’ve heard about a higher than average retirement with disability from the BOE and of office affairs.
But, when you get right down to it- the problem is that we entrust jobs as important as running honest elections to the two major political parties- whose sole job it is to stop third party and independent candidates from getting on the ballot or getting elected. It’s time for a major revamping of the way we set up our elections overseers in the State of Ohio.