Wednesday, February 1, 2012
SOMEONE IS LYING IN THE LAKE/STARK COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS - LAKE ISSUE #6 - SCREW UP?
Nancy Molnar of the Akron Beacon Journal set up the obvious perfectly in her article Stark County reviews Lake Twp. Levy error, January 31, 2012.
As reported by the SCPR on, the Stark County Board of Elections received on or about July 27, 2011 a communication from the Ohio secretary of state noting the error in the ballot language on the Lake Township-wide police levy and provided the correction.
Conclusion: to a reasonable person - someone is lying!
No matter who the liar may be, it should be disconcerting if not revolting to Stark Countians and, in particular, Lake Township voters that we are now into a "he says, she says" scenario.
People do make mistakes.
But errors should be owned up to and remedial processes instituted to prevent them from ever happening again.
For someone to lie to cover the tracks of an agency of government should be totally unacceptable to the Stark County body politic.
In the Molnar piece, Deputy Director of the Board of Elections (BOE) Jeff Matthews admitted that a board of elections worker "making a phone call" is not proper protocol for making sure that Lake Township got a timely message.
Such is in and of itself unacceptable of an agency of government charged with the responsibility of safeguarding elections.
In this day and age (e.g. e-mail with proof of delivery), the slop coming out of the Stark BOE (at the leadership level) is unacceptable.
If the board itself has the taxpayers interests at heart and cares whether or not Stark Countians have confidence in the voting integrity and processes of government, action should be taken against Matthews and and Director Jeannette Mullane by the board for not nailing down (i.e. documented proof) that Lake Township knew of the ballot language problem and when they knew of it and why the BOE permitted the erroneous language to be printed notwithstanding their knowledge it was wrong.
Who can accept the apparent BOE reasoning that the last resolution of the Lake Board of Trustees was erroneous and, though the BOE knew it to be erroneous, permit it to be ballot printed anyway because that was the last word from Lake?
Just a little bit of circular reasoning, no?
Yours truly can easily think of any number of recourses the BOE could have taken to get a timely correction the board needed from Lake over a nearly 30 day window within which to operate.
Between the two of them, Matthews (a Republican) and Mullane (a Democrat) must make in excess of $150,000 combined. For that kind of money, Stark Countians cannot expect that they can communicate effectively with the likes of the Lake trustees?
And what about the Lake Township angle on the problem?
On November 28th, the SCPR had a telephone conversation with Lake attorney Charles Hall III.
No bones about it, he told yours truly: "It was my error."
Moreover, he said that he was confident that ultimately there was not going to be a problem citing 5th District Court of Appeals and Ohio Supreme Court cases which cites he promised to e-mail to yours truly - which he never did.
From that conversation, it is clear in the understanding of The Report that Hall (who was paid $36,000 by Lake Township in 2011; renewed for 2012 at the same amount) knew that there was a problem with the ballot language early on.
Hall's words to the SCPR: "it was caught, caught and changed, and changed again."
Ultimately, the Ohio secretary of state's office made the final correction which Hall says was never communicated to him by the Stark BOE until it was too late.
One has to wonder: once Hall knew of the erroneous language, why didn't he track ballot language as it moved through the Stark County prosecutor's office, the Stark County Board of Elections and the Ohio secretary of state's office and back to the BOE until he absolutely knew for certain prior to the deadline for making a correction, that the language was, in fact, correct?
No matter how the litigation over the issue turns out (it is now headed to the Ohio Supreme Court), the election having been overturned by Stark County Court of Common Pleas Judge John Haas; it is incumbent upon the Lake trustees to pin Hall down on a timeline of what he knew, when he knew it, and why he did not track resolution of the errant language fastidiously once he knew a problem existed.
The SCPR can see that neither the Stark BOE nor the Lake trustees in a CYA fashion will be inclined to join in a joint enterprise to determine the truth of the matter. It is not so much a case of finger pointing. But learning how this whole process went wrong so that safeguards can be put in place to prevent a recurrence is the point.
If the Stark BOE or the Lake trustees either separately or jointly do not investigate and release findings publicly, then they will have excused the inexusable and thereby become part of the larger problem of the public's growing lack of confidence in government, and yes, even "local" government.
And in Lake Township, Trustees Erb and Stoll will have a real problem being re-elected in 2013.