Thursday, December 08, 2011

Sobecki won't seek county recorder seat, but may still be in violation of state law

I've previously written about Toledo School Board member and current county employee Lisa Sobecki's ineligibility to run for partisan office. I also questioned why Lucas County Commissioners (who are fully aware of the prohibition) and The Blade failed to raise this issue when she announced her intent.

After seeing on my blog analytics that someone from The Blade had read my posts, I thought the issue might be highlighted. And, according to today's paper, Sobecki has decided not to run for recorder:

A fourth possible Democratic candidate, Lisa Sobecki, opted not to run because she would have had to quit her job with the county Department of Job & Family Services to do so. Ms. Sobecki said Wednesday she had begun collecting signatures on her petitions but quit when she learned it was prohibited by the Ohio administrative code, which governs state employees, to even collect signatures. She said she did not know whether the violation would cost her her job.

"I tried to be honest and law-abiding and to follow the intent of the law," she said.

First, she didn't try to "follow the intent of the law" if she didn't even know about the prohibition. But I do believe she tried to be honest, even if she was ignorant.

Sobecki has done the right thing. She should have known the law - but she did stop the illegal act of collecting signatures as soon as she learned of the prohibition.

While she may be disappointed that she cannot run for county recorder, she should be angry at being poorly served by her Democratic Party and her fellow elected officials in the commissioner's office.

Both Pete Gerkin and Tina Skeldon-Wozniak have signed letters to county employees reminding them of the prohibition against partisan activity. Both of them should have immediately contacted Sobecki upon learning she was interested in running and let her know that, as a classified civil service employee, she couldn't continue her employment if she pulled the petitions.

And with all the supposed expertise in the leadership of the local Democratic Party, you would think someone there would have told Sobecki her job was in jeopardy should she participate in any partisan activity.

Apparently, Democrats are used to getting away with such things and it's only this blog and an interview on WSPD that prompted further attention to the issue.

But Sobecki may still have a problem. After being hired in 2010 by the county to work at their Department of Job and Family Services, she ran for - and was elected - to the partisan position of precinct chair. I wrote about this violation in February. If she hasn't resigned that position, she is still in violation of state law and should face the consequences of being in violation for the last 18 months.

Tom Blumer, who also covered the issue, weighs in on the decision.

Side Note:

This highlights why bloggers are so vital in this media age. I truly believe that if I hadn't raised this issue, Sobecki would have run for the office, as no one wanted to be the one to either investigate the law or speak out about the violation.

We need more people willing to look into such issues and bring them to the attention of the public, and then hold our elected officials accountable.


Mmatters said...

Matt Hurley has noted and quote ORC ORC 124.57 at WoMD.

Section B1 states that "Nothing in division (A) of this section prohibits an officer or employee described in that division from serving as a precinct election official under section 3501.22 of the Revised Code."

Is that the same as being a precinct "chair" as you described Ms. Sobecki, or is that different?


Maggie Thurber said...

Mmatters: they are NOT the same. A precinct election official is a poll worker or booth official. Classified civil service employees can be employed by the Boards of Election to work on election day.

A precinct chair (also called committeeman) is an individual who has circulated a petition in their voting precinct to be their political party's representative on their local central committee. The person declares a partisan policital position and, when elected, holds a partisan political office.

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