Saturday, March 30, 2013

Blade bias, Board of Elections and abuse of process

or otherwise titled:

Everything you didn't want to know about what's going on at the Lucas County Board of Elections

Alas, it should come as no surprise that news coverage of the recent brouhaha at the Board of Elections is biased. The Blade, for whatever reason, continues to support Lucas County Republican Chairman and BOE board member Jon Stainbrook.

People have wondered for years what Stainbrook might have on publisher John Robinson Block to make the man so supportive of Stainbrook, who some go so far as to call a sociopath.

Sadly, the voters of Lucas County - all of them, regardless of political affiliation or lack thereof - are the ones to suffer.

Let's recap, in case you've been otherwise occupied...

Jon Stainbrook engineers a majority of central committee members and gets himself elected as chairman of the Lucas County GOP. After years of struggle (I'm not exaggerating), he manages to finally get himself appointed to the Board of Elections. He also gets someone he believes will be his crony, Anthony DeGidio, appointed as the second Republican on the four-member board.

Along the way, he tries to fire everyone at the BOE he deems an enemy. Several individuals were his victims. Then he gets his 'sometimes girlfriend' (as The Blade identified her numerous times) appointed at the director of the BOE. No conflict of interest there, I'm sure (which is important as you will read in a moment).

Together, they announce they're going to 'clean up the board.' But that's hardly what is happening.

Instead, they're using the BOE and its resources to continue to go after those Stainbrook has deemed 'enemy.' And Stainbrook loves to hold a grudge, never forgetting a perceived slight or wrong.

But then comes the Secretary of State who oversees all the voting - and the local Boards of Election - in the state. They realize things are amiss in Lucas County and send in a Republican and a Democrat to take a look and make recommendations.

Not surprisingly, the report they issued calls for Gallagher and the Democratic assistant director to be fired.

This does not sit well with Stainbrook - for without his FoS (friend of Stainbrook) in the director position, how can he fulfill his vendettas? Plus, if rumor is to be believed, she shares income and earnings with him and I'm sure neither of them want to go without her $85,000+ salary.

What did surprise everyone, though, including his fellow Republican board member DeGidio, was Stainbrook's motion when the SoS report came before the full board.

Stainbrook made a motion to fire everyone at the board EXCEPT the two recommended by the report.


The motion did not get a second, but discussion did follow. After a brief recess, the board returned and no other action regarding the report was taken.

I can only imagine the conversation - more likely bullying - Stainbrook did during that recess to try to get DeGidio to second his motion.

I also presume that was the point at which DeGidio stopped being a FoS and became an enemy - and a target.

Suddenly, DeGidio is persona non grata and must be removed from the Board of Elections.

He doesn't live in the county.

He has a young, Filipino girlfriend.

He has an ethics complaint against him at the Supreme Court (which has nothing to do with his eligibility to serve on the BOE, but is apparently just cause for removal in Stainbrook's eyes).

And in case you missed it, let's repeat all those things until you believe DeGidio is an evil, evil man who must be removed from the BOE so we can avoid the zombie apocalypse.

Enter John Marshall, another FoS and failed candidate for Lucas County Commissioner.

Marshall files a challenge to DeGidio's eligibility to vote in Lucas County. He produces, according to The Blade, hundreds of pages of so-called 'proof' that DeGidio doesn't reside in Lucas County. Some of the 'proof' was before DeGidio was even on the elections board, so it was irrelevant to the challenge.

But all the so-called evidence was not enough to overcome a Supreme Court ruling about residency that says regardless of where you might stay/live on a temporary basis, it is your intent to be a voting resident of your home county that matters. (The Court said a lot more, but you get the drift.)

Accordingly, the BOE voted 2-1 against the challenge, with the two Democrats voting to dismiss it and only Stainbrook voting to uphold it. DeGidio wasn't present - and couldn't have voted anyway - though he was represented by an attorney for the hearing.

Here's where The Blade comes in, right on cue to join with the character assassination so desired by Stainbrook.

First came the article that Stainbrook wanted DeGidio off the Board, alleging all sorts of evil things (see list above).

Then came the story about the official complaint by Marshall.

Then came two stories (here and here) about the board's vote to dismiss the complaint.

Then, despite a rather firm decision, The Blade attempts to make readers 'question' the decision with yet another article raising - you guessed it - 'questions.'

It's a long sordid story, but necessary to go over the details so you can see why various information being omitted in the Blade coverage is vital to truly understanding what is going on in this most important government agency.

In reporting on the hearing, The Blade wrote:

Attorney James Perlman, who represented Mr. DeGidio at the hearing, tried to cross-examine Mr. Marshall and the legitimacy of the documents several times, but Mr. Marshall refused to answer any of the attorney's questions. Mr. DeGidio did not attend the hearing. "I'm not going to talk to you anymore," Mr. Marshall said when asked how he obtained such things as Mr. DeGidio's insurance records.

When Mr. Rothenbuler explained that cross-examination is part of the hearing process, Mr. Marshall told him, "I'm not going to answer his questions."

Mr. Marshall did acknowledge to Mr. Perlman that he launched an investigation of Mr. DeGidio after speaking with Mr. Stainbrook and Meghan Gallagher, the Board of Elections' director.

Further down in the article, is this:

Mr. Stainbrook expressed frustration with the board's decision. He said Mr. DeGidio's absence from the hearing undermined the proceedings because Mr. Marshall couldn't question him.

Did reporter Federico Martinez bother to ask Stainbrook why he didn't then object to Marshall refusing to answer questions from DeGidio's attorney? Isn't that a double standard for Stainbrook? Where is that coverage?

Then there is this, from the 'questions' article that says the decided residency issue isn't over (though I'm pretty sure it is).

Evidence produced by Mr. Marshall, through subpoenas issued by the elections board...

"Subpoenas" - plural???

Since when do staff members at the Board of Elections have the authority - without direction from the board itself - to issue subpoenas???

Why isn't this questioned by DeGidio's attorney and the Democrat members of the board - and The Blade?

Mr. Stainbrook, a former ally of Mr. DeGidio, said he felt it was his duty to tell Mr. DeGidio to move back to Lucas County.

I understand that Stainbrook has known all along about DeGidio's back and forth between Lucas County and his parents due to his parents' age and health. Why doesn't the reporter ask Stainbrook how long he's known about this issue and why it's just now an issue? Why doesn't the reporter ask Stainbrook if all this is just being brought up because DeGidio wouldn't second his motion to fire the entire staff rather than Gallagher and the Democrat assistant director.

Aren't those very valid questions to ask and extremely pertinent to the story?

The article references log-ins to DeGidio's BOE email, with only six of the 88 being from an Internet address within Lucas County. Did Marshall file a public records request to obtain that information or did BOE staff provide it to him in an effort to get rid of one of their bosses?

How much time did BOE staff spend on assisting Marshall with his challenge?

If the reporter is going to list all the documents and say they 'raise questions' why didn't he also ask how much BOE time employees and resources were used?

The challenge was by Marshall not the BOE. Because of this, the BOE is limited by statute to investigating only whether or not DeGidio was on the records at a proper address. The rest is supposed to be prepared by Marshall as the challenger to the voting eligibility.

Why doesn't The Blade mention that Marshall was assisted throughout the hearing by Kelly Bensman, another FoS? In fact:

Turns out Marshall was responsible for almost nothing. Someone else had assembled all the information he was presenting and was sitting next to him handing it to him.

Clearly it would not do for Bensman to have filed the challenge - that would be too obvious.

In fact, Marshall even said during the hearing that he didn't care about challenging DeGidio's right to vote but just wanted to get DeGidio off the board.

But that presents another serious problem for Marshall: abuse of process.

Abuse of process is where a legal process is used for an unlawful purpose.

Doesn't using a residency challenge to someone's right to vote in order to get them thrown off a Board of Elections because they won't agree with another board member fit that description?

And if Stainbrook has known all along about DeGidio's care of his parents and that it didn't have anything to do with voting residency but instructed Marshall to file the challenge, is Stainbrook also not guilty of abuse of process? What did he know and when did he know it?

What about BOE staff improperly using subpoena authority to get rid of one of their bosses?

I know I've developed a reputation for asking good questions, but why isn't anyone else asking about these things?

Clearly, we can't expect The Blade to do so, but surely the Secretary of State should be wondering.

There's another matter as well: Gallagher's grievance complaint with the local Bar Association against DeGidio, her attorney on a injury lawsuit.

Apparently, DeGidio, who has represented Gallagher, Stainbrook and Bensman in various lawsuits in the past - hence the title FoS - had filed suit on behalf of Gallagher over a car accident where she was hit from behind. The suit for $25,0000 claims:

* Gallagher has suffered - and continues to suffer -" headaches, numbness, stiffness, limitations in movement and pain with movement" as a result of injuries to her shoulder, neck and head in the accident.

* Gallagher has suffered "permanent physical injury and will continue to experience severe pain and suffering for the rest of her normal life."

* Gallagher will "suffer life-long pain and suffering and will require life long medical treatment."

One wonders how she can manage to work at the BOE?

Interestingly, on March 5th, DeGidio requested to withdraw as her attorney. His filing says notified her three times - in March 2012, November 2012 and January, 2013 - that he needed to withdraw and that she needed to find a new attorney to represent her in the case. On March 3rd, he emailed her and told her that he could no longer wait for her to find a new attorney, filing the motion to withdraw two days later.

The nature of the grievance against DeGidio is confidential, but the effect is very public. With DeGidio facing a grievance, he has a conflict of interest with Gallagher and cannot ethically vote to fire her.

What I want to know is this: when did Gallagher learn the SoS report was going to recommend her firing and when did she file the grievance against DeGidio to 'conflict him out' of the vote? I'm certain the two directors were notified before the report was made public so they would not be surprised by the findings and the recommendation. Is this another abuse of process?

And if DeGidio has a conflict of interest because of the grievance complaint, doesn't Stainbrook also have a conflict of interest if Gallagher is his 'sometimes girlfriend' and if he accepts monetary support from her as is rumored?

See, told you that conflict of interest would be important, especially because Stainbrook and Gallagher have denied a relationship, but no one at The Blade chose to research what they previously had documented about the two.

Clearly, there are conflicts all around.

The bottom line

Stainbrook should be removed from the BOE. DeGidio, with his on-going health problems and need to care for his parents and himself, should probably step down. But he shouldn't do so when Stainbrook will be responsible for naming his replacement.

The SoS recommendation to fire Gallagher and the Democrat assistant direct needs to accepted and the two need to go.

The SoS needs to bypass the local GOP in order to name two new Republican board members.

Stayed tuned...there is certainly more to come!

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