Friday, March 2, 2007

Looking for a new director, deputy director & the 90 days in between

It's official. After a few five+ hour executive sessions with their lawyers, former CCBOE Director, Michael Vu's is now a CCBOE consultant, through June 30 at about $11,000/month. Gwen Dillingham, per the agreement she worked out on her very last day, 2/28, with her lawyer Roger Synenberg (yes the same former board member, and lawyer for Kathy Dreamer in the trial article below) representing her (yes, it's probably exactly what you're thinking...) will be a "consultant" until the end of August, at approximately $9,000+/month.

With current HR Director and Administrator, Jane Platten taking over the Interim Director duties, through the May election, there may be a chance for the atmosphere at the board to become far more competent, and far less fearfully toxic.

Also, at least temporarily, there need be no change in the Chairmanship of the election board. Platten is a Dem, as was Vu declared, so the Ohio GOP head, Bob Bennett, (Robert T.) can remain as Chair, per the split prescribed in Ohio law. There have been more than a few conjectures that his desire to remain Chair might ultimately limit the board's choices for director to only Dems who apply, though he denies that to be true.

Also to be noted is that there has been public wrangling about forcing the ouster of Dillingham and Vu since July, '06, when the Cuyahoga Review Panel report was released about the CCBOE and the debacle May'06 election,
It showed often scathing revelations about Vu and Dillingham's lack of "integrity" and competence.
The board then had at least two such wrangling meetings ( a bit refreshing when usually things are just decided ahead of time) with a 2-2 split across party lines, about the forcing out. Bennett and fellow R, Sally Flourkewicz, who ALWAYS goes along with Bennett, said they stay; the two Dems, Ed Coaxum and Loree Soggs, were adamant about their leaving even then - "stopping the hemorhaging" as they say.

However, there were "problems" with Bennett sending the tie down to Columbus, for Blackwell's office to break; then the board got together and seemed to "make up" to get the Commissioners to appropriate another more than $5 million for 900 more Diebold machines and Diebold "extras" (to cover the number of breakdowns in the first 5,000+, only months-old Diebold machines!!! Makes one wonder if anyone promised Diebold a minimum millions in orders); and eventually the public was just waiting for the "other shoe to drop" while it appears the board was waiting to see what happened at the recount rigging trial- maybe if any wrong doing finally fell into the lap of Vu, Dillingham, or even themselves.

That the shoe dropped now, right after the recount trial is telling. If everything were on the up and up, and if none of them had "goods"on the others, the trial would be a completely separate issue. However, now that some lower managers got convicted to show the public that "justice was done" (and while they are all now dealing in all ways possible to keep THEM out of jail, thus quiet;) while the higher ups all stayed free of prison threat and reputation stain - says a lot.

In fact, that Dillingham waited until the last day of her resignation to negotiate her "buy out" consultancy - which in a normal world would have left her little leverage, as the board could have just fired her if they could not agree to her terms, (albeit with another 2-2 tie taken to the SoS office.) This seems to point to the fact that she has a lot of personal knowledge leverage (and I don't mean about the election process.)

And that Bennett, in the PD article linked below, was quoted as saying that Gwen got a longer consultancy- months of pay - than Vu ( though they equal to about the same total amount) because of her 17 years of service to the board, when all facts show that at least the last few years have been years of spreading lack of integrity into our election process, and that her head was on the line a few times before - shows that nothing is really as it's made to look here in Cuyahoga.

SoS Brunner's Directive 2007-01
New Secretary of State Brunner, a breath of fresh air, in this matter too, while probably also speaking off the record, weighed into this whole dynamic publicly with her very first, very objective SoS directive:
Minimum Qualifications of Directors and Deputy Directors of BOE's

One sad and almost funny thing about it is that she had to specify that to qualify, the director and deputy of our Ohio boards must have at least a GED. That demonstrates the level to which political hackery and nepotism have devolved Ohio's boards of elections, supposedly "leading" democracy's most sacred trust.
Near the end of the directive she spells out that a local board must vote to break a tie in their selection process at least 5 times in one meeting, to try to break their partisan conflict, before sending the decision to her office to break.

The Search Committee
Also, the board named an 8 member director search committee on Feb. 6 to find candidates. It is headed by Captain William Wilkins a former CCBOE director, '95 - 2000, and former Coast Guard captain. It contains the heads of both county parties, others to partisanly balance, and the most acquiescent of local election activists. Their applications process has been extended through 3/7.
The big joke goes - Who would want that job? (Wilkins himself, it appears was set up by others' non-responsibility taking, and forced out in 2000.)

For more details about this, see Joan Mazzolini's Plain Dealer article from yesterday.

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