Secretary of State appoints his own Lucas Co. BOE members - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Secretary of State appoints his own Lucas Co. BOE members

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TOLEDO, Ohio - The Ohio Secretary of State is stepping in to appoint members to the Lucas County Board of Elections after two Republican nominees were rejected by Secretary Jon Husted.

Thursday morning, Husted announced he is appointing Judge Peter Handwork and Mark Wagoner Sr. to the Board of Elections effective immediately. He also announced he has approved the Democratic nomination of former TPS board member Brenda Hill.

Lucas County Republicans nominated Kelly Bensman and Ben Roberts but those nominations were rejected by Husted. Lucas County Chairman Jon Stainbrook has said both nominees were qualified and are competent to serve the voters of Lucas County. Stainbrook has said the reasons Husted gave for their dismissal were unsubstantiated and not based in reality or fact. The party has filed paperwork with the Ohio Supreme Court to have those seats filled.

The letter from Husted also says Jon Irish has been removed from suspension and reinstated.

The three new members appointed to the Lucas County Board of Elections agree that this is a fresh start and there is a long way to restore voter confidence.

However, this could be temporary for the two Republicans.

Secretary of State Jon Husted says until the Ohio Supreme Court hands down a decision in the Republican Party’s appeal, this is the board he is putting in place to handle the August 5th special election.

Former TPS board member Democrat Brenda Hill, retired Republican Judge Peter Handwork, and Republican attorney Mark Wagoner, Sr., are the newly appointed members of the Lucas County Board of Elections.

"We can clear up something that has been dysfunctional for a number of years,” says Wagoner.

"Our personalities and our agendas will not be involved,” says Hill. “We're just working to secure the vote.”

"I'm committed to do the best I can for whatever period of time I'm given to serve,” says Judge Handwork.

They join Democrat John Irish, the board member that Secretary of State Jon Husted also lifted from suspension on Thursday.

These appointments come more than a month after Husted fired three board members: Democrat Ron Rothenbuhler, Republican Tony DeGidio, and Republican Jon Stainbrook.

Stainbrook is also the Chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party.  Earlier this week his party’s Executive Committee filed a Writ of Mandamus with the state Supreme Court.  The committee wants the justices to force Husted to seat Republicans Kelly Bensman and Ben Roberts to the board.

In Thursday’s letter, Husted writes, “It had been my hope that these issues could be settled locally; however, that solution remains elusive. With litigation pending, it is my hope that we will reach resolution sooner rather than later. As I have in all other litigation, I will abide by the court’s order, but until the matter is resolved, I am charged with ensuring that the board of elections remains operational, and it cannot do so without this action today.”   

In his law office along Airport Highway in Holland, Wagoner says his work style is not combative.

"It's going to be a very cohesive unit, I hope,” says Wagoner. “And it's going to be non-political, which is what it should be."

Outside his Sylvania Township home, Judge Handwork says the new group is not connected to the problems of the past.

“That's what my life has been about as a judge is working things out, so I'm excited to go about the task that's ahead of us,” says Judge Handwork.  “I think you move forward carefully, slowly, you develop trust.”

Hill, a retired teacher, says she plans to work quietly.

 "We're ready to start fresh,” says Hill.  “We'll be ready to work together and it's kind of like after the storm. We had the storm. We had the big blow up. Now we're going to have the calm after the storm."

The full letter is below:

Dear Chairman Stainbrook and Chairman Steel:
    As you know, there are currently three vacancies on the Lucas County Board of Elections. Further, the Lucas County Republican Executive Committee has chosen to pursue litigation in lieu of recommending competent board members to serve. With utmost deference to the Ohio Supreme Court as I await a decision, I am focused on maintaining smooth operation of the Lucas County Board of Elections.
    The Lucas County Board of Elections staff is busy preparing for a special election on August 5, 2014. Administration of that election, including the unofficial and official canvassing of votes, certification of the election results, and any possible recounts, requires action by members of the board of elections. In order to facilitate these statutory processes without interfering with the court’s proceedings, it is necessary for me to appoint board members.
    The people of Lucas County must have a functioning Board today in the interest of ensuring proper administration of the August 5, 2014 Special Election. It is with this in mind that I am appointing Judge Peter Handwork and Mr. Mark Wagoner, Sr. as members of the Lucas County Board of Elections.
    Additionally, my office has completed its review of Ms. Brenda Hill, the Democratic nominee for the Lucas County Board of Elections. Finding nothing in Ms. Hill’s background that links her to the prior dysfunction at the board
    With a full Board now in place and the special election just around the corner, I am also removing Mr. John Irish from suspension, and allowing him to resume his role on the Lucas County Board of Elections. Mr. Irish is well aware of the problems and should know that I expect him to be part of the solution now that he is reinstated.
    Materials have been sent to Ms. Hill, Judge Handwork, and Mr. Wagoner to be executed and filed with the Lucas County Clerk of Courts immediately. My office will stand at the ready to help the Lucas County Board of Elections as they work toward administering the upcoming special election.
    As I have said time and time again, it had been my hope that these issues could be settled locally; however, that solution remains elusive. With litigation pending, it is my hope that we will reach resolution sooner rather than later. As I have in all other litigation, I will abide by the court’s order, but until the matter is resolved, I am charged with ensuring that the board of elections remains operational, and it cannot do so without this action today.Sincerely,
Jon Husted
cc: The Honorable Peter Handwork

Brenda Hill
John Irish
Mark Wagoner, Sr.
Lucas County Board of Elections



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