Sharp: Mess at the BOEWritten by Kenneth Sharp | | firstname.lastname@example.org
As a Libertarian I do not get any joy out of the catastrophe that we call the Lucas County Board of Elections (BOE). While I am neither surprised nor truly bothered when the leaders of the two major parties demonstrate their incompetence, I am disturbed at the effect it has on our system. Party posturing and self aggrandizement over many years has created an unworkable atmosphere. It did not have to reach this level.
This sad scenario has a long history. In 2008, then-central committee candidate Jon Stainbrook and company complained of dysfunction and possibly criminal behavior at the BOE. He, along with Meghan Gallagher and Kelly Bensman (trouble really does come in threes) made the office of the BOE their war zone. At the time it was depicted by some media that they were fighting the good fight. His confrontational style along with constant support from The Blade and Toledo City Paper put him into position to seize control of the State Republican central committee and eventually get a board seat.
From the very start it was about ego. Stainbrook not only got a plum position for himself but also a plum spot for his longtime ally Gallagher. Bensman was never far behind. Unfortunately the Pittsburgh Connection was more intent on ousting Tom Noe than finding suitable replacements.
Many of the names we read about today were the same ones Stainbrook first complained about — Ron Rothenbuhler and Dan DeAngelis for example. However, Stainbrook and company never had any intention of making the BOE a better place, just their place. For some unknown reason the Democrat half of the board took the appeasement approach (that always works so well against tyrants). Gallagher became Director of the BOE, though neither she nor Stainbrook had experience in their new roles. Their previous roles were of agitators, sort of like community organizers.
Apparently experience at the level of a community organizer is only a problem if it is on the left side of the hydra according to the right side. But it was a problem for workers, candidates and voters. It was well known that Gallagher would lock herself in her office, presumably because she didn’t know how to handle the job. In the end she was dismissed, but wouldn’t disappear.
Over many years, through both Democrat and Republican Secretaries of State, our board has needed and been under state oversight. In that time allegations of harassment, illegal taping, fraud, obstruction and more have swirled in a do-si-do-like square dance while at the same time the board members did likewise with their positions. None of it has helped. There is no confidence in the four member board. Over those same years many good and qualified people tried to do the day-to-day tasks within a hostile office environment. For some the atmosphere was too much. They deserve better.
Who should leave? It is my opinion that the entire board should go. I would include DeAngelis as well, simply because of his long involvement with nothing to show for it; at press time he is the only one to resign. The Secretary of State says that Irish should stay as he is new to the board. Well, okay, so is Gina Kaczala. She was installed just weeks before the early voting began and well after the problems had festered. We have a general election in six months. We need some calming experience in these political roles so we don’t lose more of the operational staff. Keep Irish and Kaczala then.
What should really happen? We need to change Ohio law so that minor parties can be represented on the board. Change the number of board members to five from four. Have two minor parties represented. Have three from the major parties with the extra seat rotating between them every election cycle.
That way they must seek coalition building over party obfuscation and more of the voters’ real voices are represented.
We all deserve better.
Email Kenneth Sharp at email@example.com.
Tags: BOE, community organizer, Dan DeAngelis, Gina Kaczala, Jon Stainbrook, Kelly Bensman, Libertarian, Lucas County Board of Elections, Meghan Gallagher, Pittsburgh Connection, Republican, Ron Rothenbuhler