Sec. of State Jon Husted demands BOE send records of backdoor de - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Sec. of State Jon Husted demands BOE send records of backdoor deal

(Source: WTOL) (Source: WTOL)
LUCAS COUNTY, OH (WTOL) -

More trouble at the Lucas County Board of Elections with Ohio's Secretary of State saying they're acting like infants.

Secretary of State Jon Husted is demanding board members turn over text messages and he won't take no for an answer.

The new controversy centers around a board of elections reorganizing meeting on March 3.

The two Republican and two Democrat board kept getting tie votes, when trying to choose a director and deputy director.

Board chairman Brenda Hill said the Republican members were on their phones during the meeting, texting.

“It's kind of insulting to the public that you feel that what you're doing on your phone is more important than the meeting and it's just not good manners.”

Democrat board member Joshua Hughes says they were exchanging texts with former Republican board member Jon Stainbrook, who was removed by the secretary of state in 2014.

“And gives the appearance of impropriety when the board members look to a removed board member in the back of the room in order to determine how they're going to vote on a certain issue," Hughes said.

Secretary of State Husted found out and wrote a letter to the board members, calling their behavior "infantile.”

Jon Stainbrook said none of the texts were related to election matters and it's ridiculous for anyone to suggest he was influencing the GOP members. Stainbrook also said Secretary of State Husted should stop running for Governor all the time and fix the problems in the board of elections.

Brenda Hill hopes the investigation leads to changes, saying, “It's not a good meeting and we should be able to do better.”

Husted also is investigating if a private meeting was held about a new director. Hughes said he did meet a GOP member but denies there were any discussions of choosing a director.

We reached out to the Republican board members but haven't heard back.

Husted's letter reads as follows:

Dear Chairwoman Hill and Board Members Hartley, Hughes, and Saferin:

At a recent meeting of the Lucas County Board of Elections, you tied on three different subjects: appointment of a Director, appointment of a Deputy Director, and a motion to create a board policy governing cell phone usage by board members during meetings of the board.

I am in receipt of arguments submitted by those in favor and opposed to each of the matters in controversy. However, before making a decision, additional information is required.

The minutes of the meeting, as well as the audio recording, indicate that Board Members Hartley and Saferin extensively engaged in some form of electronic and other non-verbal communications, apparently with Mr. Jon Stainbrook, a former member of the Lucas County Board of Elections who was in attendance at the meeting.

In addition, The Blade has reported1 that Member Hartley has asserted that some sort of “deal” regarding the director of the Lucas County Board of Elections was made at a private coffee shop meeting involving himself, Mr. Stainbrook, former Director Meghan Gallagher, and Member Hughes, in which the democrat members of the board would support the republican’s director nominee, in exchange for Member Hartley “dropping” complaints he has regarding current Director Gina Kaczala.

These scenarios are troubling, for several reasons. First, they represent the same sort of infantile behavior that led to the removal of board members in 2014—behavior I strongly indicated I will no longer condone. Second, if Member Hartley has legitimate complaints, it would be unethical, at a minimum, for him to “drop” them in exchange for any kind of quid pro quo. Finally, the secretive nature of the communications—both at the coffee shop and during the board meeting— may involve the type of “serial meetings” (which can occur over the telephone or through electronic communications, like email and text messages) that the Ohio Supreme Court has determined to be a violation of Ohio’s “Open Meetings” law.

Accordingly, before rendering a decision, I must be fully informed on the context in which Chairwoman Hill’s motion to ban cell phone usage by board members during future board meetings was made.

Each board member is hereby instructed, pursuant to my authority under R.C. 3501.05(L) and (M), to provide the following:

(1) Copies of all communications, including electronic forms of communications such as email, text messages, or instant-messaging methods (IM), sent to or received by board members during the course of the March 3, 2017 special meeting of the board. You may only exclude communications from individuals regarding personal matters unrelated to the Lucas County Board of Elections. However, all communications sent to or received by a board member during the course of the March 3, 2017 special meeting that are related in any way to the Lucas County Board of Elections are required to be provided to my office, including all communications between any board member and any person identified as attending the meeting in the minutes from March 3, 2017; and

(2) Copies of all communications including electronic forms of communications such as email, text messages, or instant-messaging methods (IM), sent to or received by board members regarding discussions to allow Lucas County Republicans to secure their preferred choice as Board Director, including all communications between any board member and any person identified as attending the meeting in the minutes from March 3, 2017. This includes communications regarding planning to meet prior to March 3, 2017 to discuss the matter of securing a preferred choice as board director as well as communications that may have stemmed from those prior discussions.

Husted demanded all four board member submit any texts that they sent or received during that meeting by 5 p.m. Friday.

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