|Putnam BOE locked in war over deputy director|
|Wednesday, March 12, 2014 8:00 PM|
BY ANNE COBURN-GRIFFIS
OTTAWA — After two rounds of debate in executive session in as many weeks, the Putnam County Board of Elections voted Tuesday to place Karen Lammers in the position of Director of the PCBOE. The special meeting held Tuesday was called after voting on the same issue resulted in a 2-2 tie during the March 5 meeting.
“We voted on the director again and went ahead and appointed Karen,” said Virginia Price, PCBOE chairman. “Someone indicated they were willing to compromise and so we had a revote.”
Lammers’ position came into question during the March 5 meeting when BOE member Tom Jerwers made a motion to enter into executive session to dismiss both Lammers and PCBOE Deputy Director Shelly Burkhart. According to member Tony Wobler, he and member Carla Tooman nominated Lammers for the directorship during the March 5 meeting. This nomination, in accordance with BOE reorganization, was made five times, with the motion made by Wobler and seconded by Tooman. After several hours of deliberation in executive session, the vote remained at a 2-2 tie with Wobler and Tooman, both Democrats, voting to hire Lammers and Republicans Jerwers and Price dissenting. Neither Republican made a nomination for the position.
However, BOE members are still at an impasse over whether or not to keep Burkhart in the deputy director position. Another two-to-two split over Burkhart’s retention resulted in two voting ties on Tuesday: 1. To continue without a deputy director; 2. to advertise for a new deputy director. According to a written statement made by Wobler and Tooman to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, no documentation exists that indicates poor performance by Burkhart.
“I feel that [Lammers and Burkhart] have done an exemplary job since I came on the board last fall,” said Wobler. “It’s been running like a well-oiled machine. They were some of the top elections employees for the state for reporting.”
While still in executive session, a nomination was made to offer BOE clerk Mary Sybert the position. She declined the nomination.
In order to move forward in the placement process, both the opposing BOE members and the two in favor of Burkhart’s nomination must submit letters stating their positions to Husted.
SOS Region 1 Liason Tim Monaco was in attendance on Tuesday and clarified that Burkart is to remain in her current role as Deputy Director until the tie is decided by the SOS.
“Going forward, once our office receives the tie vote materials from the board, the Secretary will carefully review what has been submitted and consider the statements made by both sides before making a decision,” responded Matt McClellan, SOS press scretary.
Lammers became the county’s BOE deputy director on Oct. 6, 2008. She took over the BOE deputy director position on Feb. 11, 2008. Burkhart has been the BOE deputy director since Jan. 12, 2009.
Jennifer Brunner, Husted’s predecessor, placed the PCBOE under administrative oversight following what she referred to as a “meltdown” of voting machines during a 2008 special congressional election. The board remained under oversight until March 2009. Monaco was present during both March meetings as it is common practice for regional SOS representatives to attend county boards of elections meetings.