Fired Board of Elections employees file whistleblower suit, allege voter fraudWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Two employees fired from the Lucas County Board of Elections in August have filed a whistleblower appeal against the board – charging instances of voter registration fraud and illegal voting hovering around Jon Stainbrook’s 2010 bid for Lucas County Republican Party Chairman.
The Ohio Secretary of State’s Office asserted in a letter issued during August that Kelly Mettler and Dennis Lange were fired for “irreconcilable differences” between the two and Republican Board members.
But Mettler and Lange, both Republican employees at will, allege that they lost their jobs in retaliation for investigating voter registration and ballots cast in relation to Stainbrook.
The appeal was filed Nov.1 at the Ohio State Personnel Board of Review under a section of the Ohio Revised Code that protects civil service employees from discipline if they report violation of government rules or misuse of public resources.
The board has the authority to reinstate jobs and mandate back pay and benefits, said Mettler and Lange’s lawyer, Kevin Greenfield .
The board of review is still determining whether it will accept the case. The board of elections has motioned for the case to be thrown out on the grounds that Mettler and Lange’s circumstances don’t meet the Revised Code stipulations.
The final word on the firing came from Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office because the elections board vote was a tie. The motion to dismiss, which states that the Secretary of State broke the tie, argues that Mettler and Lange would be unable to establish that the Board was even responsible for their job losses.
The rift began about a few years ago when a series of voter registration addresses raised red flags for Mettler, Lange, former Director Linda Howe and former Deputy Director Jeremy Demagall. The four found that a number of individuals had voted in precincts where they did not live. After scrutinizing records, they drew a connection between these voters and Stainbrook, according to Mettler’s memorandum.
The document states that these individuals used improper addresses to be able to vote for Stainbrook as chairman and turned over 10 names to the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office.
Stainbrook scoffed at the lawsuit.
“It’s completely frivolous and made up by employees that were terminated,” he said, after the Dec. 13 election board meeting. “It’s sour grapes.”
He said the firing had nothing to do with the allegations because he did not know about the investigation. The Board of Elections adopted a similar argument in its motion to dismiss, stating that Lange and Mettler’s names were not included on any of the filed reports so it would be implausible that Stainbrook or anyone else would have connected her to the investigation.
In addition to the investigation, Mettler had filed a report with the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office against Stainbrook in January of 2008 after an argument in the Board of Elections Office. The report says that Stainbrook visited the office to file a protest accusing Mettler of completing petition documents over the counter on county time.
Mettler confronted him and, according to the police report, Stainbrook got angry and told her that he would soon make changes in the Republican Party and she needed to decide whether she was with him or against him. The report indicates that he told her when he joined the elections board in the future he would fire Lange.
Stainbrook denied the altercation, saying he was just visiting to file a complaint because he had learned Mettler was “politicking on the job.”
The case was closed with no repercussions for either party.
Conditions at the board of elections have burst into volatility lately, with frequent altercations during board meetings, walk outs and the recent resignation of Director Ben Roberts . Stainbrook maintained during the Dec. 13 meeting that he and his partymates on the board have been working to clean up messes, setting himself apart from previous Republican board members who he said “cut deals” with Democrats.
Mettler and Lange said the Board of Elections before Stainbrook was an entirely different place.
“We were really like a family and partisan politics were not an issue,” Mettler said. “We left our political hats at the door.”
Out of work and consumed by this lawsuit, the two said they just hope justice is served.
“There were felonies committed and it needs to be made right,” Lange said.
In the meantime, Mettler is running against Meghan Gallagher – the employee who replaced her at the Board of Elections – for the Republican State Central Committeewoman for Senate District 11 .
Brenda Meyer, the board’s legal representative, did not return numerous phone calls for comment.