Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Yes, it's a soap opera at the Lucas County Board of Elections, but unlike the TV version, this one has real-world implications for the future of the fair and impartial management of our voting system.
Let's recap some of the characters and story lines of our soap opera:
In a stunning display of brilliant community organizing, our lead character, Jon Stainbrook, manages to take over the Lucas County Republican Party. Unbeknownst to most, though, his real reason for doing so was not the election of Republicans and the advancement of Republican and conservative ideals. No, it was revenge...to exact revenge and retaliation on anybody and everybody who he ever perceived slighted him in any way. He looks the hero, but he's really the villain in this drama.
Stainbrook's sometimes girlfriend (as she has been identified in numerous news reports), Meghan Gallagher, is elected chairman of the LCRP central committee. This position is supposed to recruit and train the members of the central committee - the 'boots on the ground' portion of the party. The elected members of the central committee are supposed to represent their voting precincts and be the communicators between the party structure and the Republicans in the area. They're also the ones responsible for helping to collect signatures on petitions for candidates, going door-to-door, handing out yard signs and making sure the Republicans in their district turn out on election day.
In another story line, Stainbrook - desperate for the pay and PERS benefits associated with being a member of the Board of Elections - struggles to oust two extremely qualified individuals from the BOE in order to gain the seat for himself. He claims it's all about fixing the problems at the BOE, most of which are exaggerated by him and The Blade, but it sounds good to the people and makes for good articles in The Blade to prop him up as the solution to all the woes. After lawsuits and intimidation and innuendo, he succeeds in getting the appointment.
But that's not all...he names Gallagher as the Executive Director to ensure all that he wants to accomplish can be done. With his sometimes girlfriend in charge, he proceeds to get rid of people he doesn't like, firing long-time employees and installing his own crew, some of whom, it is rumored, became members of the central committee and voted for him in return for the promise of employment at the BOE.
Also hired was Gina Kaczala. Her husband Larry was County Auditor and a candidate for Congress. His tragic death in an apparent leap from a parking garage left many stunned and saddened by his loss. Widow Gina, with Stainbrook as her party chairman, ran for the County Auditor position but was defeated. Just to make things interesting, Stainbrook used to work for Larry, but was fired and then ran against him for in the primary for the County Auditor seat. You know politics makes for strange bedfellows....
Then there is Anthony DeGidio, an attorney who first entered our story as the lawyer representing Stainbrook and Gallagher on their many court challenges both against fellow Republicans and in other, unrelated cases. DeGidio was Stainbrook's choice for the second Republican seat on the BOE.
That's the major cast of characters and the general plot line of our soap opera, but it wouldn't be a soap without drama and drama seems to follow Stainbrook and his cronies wherever they go.
* lawsuits by former BOE employees
* questionable activity between Stainbrook and Gallagher in a stopped car
* theft of drugs from a hospital patient
Then there is the 'close, personal relationship' with John Robinson Block, the publisher of The Blade - a relationship Stainbrook has bragged about for years. Many speculate that the favorable media coverage Stainbrook gets is due to that relationship, but others believe it has more to do with the fact that Stainbrook must 'have something incriminating' against JRB, as he's known.
Stainbrook loved to brag that he used to 'set JRB up with girls' back in his younger days. Couple that with his known reputation for secretly recording conversations and editing the tapes to make it seem like the other party said something they didn't and you'll understand why people believe the speculation.
As any watcher of a soap opera will tell you, it's not drama without the friends becoming enemies after some event. Usually it's 'he slept with my sister' sort of thing, but with Stainbrook, it's 'he dared to disagree with me' that results in Friends of Stainbrook (FoS) becoming an enemy.
DeGidio is the latest in that long line of people.
First there was a review of the BOE by the Secretary of State who is responsible for overseeing elections in Ohio. Stainbrook's reaction to the recommendation that Gallager (and the Democrat assistant director) be fired was to keep the two of them and fire everyone else.
DeGidio disagree...and thus began Stainbrook's attempt to oust him from the board. But DeGidio knows things too...will he tell all in his defense of his seat?
Then came the legal challenge to DeGidio's residency - and the appearance of two more characters, including another 'sometimes girlfriend' Kelly Bensman. And also the professional challenge as Gallagher filed an ethics complaint against DeGidio, her attorney in a car accident lawsuit, thus preventing DeGidio from voting on firing her.
While all this is going on, Stainbrook is not raising money for the party (a primary duty of a chairman) and he's violating the bylaws by refusing to notify past chairmen of executive committee meetings. Of course, the past chairman not being notified is the same individual he tried to kick off the BOE...as you know, everyone and everything in a soap opera is interconnected.
And just yesterday, a new twist arose. John Irish, a past party chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party and new member of the BOE, introduced a new policy at the BOE meeting forbidding the unauthorized recording of conversations. ZING! Stainbrook voted against the policy - wonder why?
It was also revealed the Kazcala filed a harassment complaint against Gallagher. The board voted 3-1 to refer the investigation to the county's human resources department. Stainbrook voted no on that as well.
Enter Stainbrook's persecution complex - it's all about trying to get rid of him and Gallagher - there's nothing to any of this and it's all political.
So now you're primarily caught up on the various story lines and ready for the next episode.
Will Stainbrook manage to succeed in getting a second challenge to DeGidio's residency heard by the board?
Will Gallagher be found guilty of harassment?
Will Kaczala and DeGidio join together to write a best-selling tell-all book about their experiences with Stainbrook?
Will The Blade grow weary of this and turn on Stainbrook?
Will the Republicans manage to get an actual chairman more focused on the party than personal vendettas?
Will Gallagher be blamed for the blank audio recording of the last meeting? (that's one you didn't know about) And was there something on that audio tape that might have proved incriminating to someone?
Will the board follow the recommendations of the Secretary of State and fire Gallagher and Dan DeAngelis, the assistant director?
Will the board remember that they gave Gallagher and DeAngelis until yesterday's meeting to finalize a working organizational chart or face possible firing?
Stay tuned for the next episode of As the Election Board Turns....