15 October 2014

The uproar of applause at attorney Cliff Arnebeck's serving the Hocking County Board of Elections with a court order not to make any decision regarding the firing of Hocking County BOE whistleblower Sherole Eaton, was in the very least, memorable. It shall be treasured by the present Eaton, who blew the whistle on a Triad GSI Technician who was witnessed by Eaton early last December, illegally switching out hard drives on an election machine involved in last year's election recount in Hocking County, Ohio. Sherole Eaton's decision to stand up for election integrity was an easy decision for this slight woman who most people would not immediately think of as "courageous." Her thought at the moment was that what she was doing the right thing. Now, she is in a fight to keep her job with the Hocking County Board of elections who voted to fire her in May 2005.

Weeks before this incident, immediately following the election, Ms. Eaton was commended by Hocking BOE Board member, Gerry Robinette (D), for her outstanding performance in executing her duties as Asst. BOE Director.  After Lisa Schwartze (R) left her duties as Hocking BOE Director for her maternity leave last October, Eaton, nearly single-handedly, oversaw the 2004 election in Hocking County, winning the diminuitive Eaton praise from her superiors.

Yesterday, in this most recent meeting of the Hocking County BOE, another side of the board members who elected to fire Eaton, was revealed. The serious matter of Hocking BOE Director, Lisa Schwartze's abusing her office of the Hocking County Board of Elections by engaging in Republican fundraising from the Hocking BOE offices, raised eyebrows from the 25 cloistered people who crowded this meeting. Apparently, Schwartze planned and executed a Silent Chinese Auction, a Republican Party fundraiser, from the offices of the Hocking County Board of Elections. The auction was admitted as part of a meeting agenda item. When questioned regarding Schwartze's activities regarding this, she became quite defensive in response, claiming that she did not deserve to be "attacked."

Ohio Backbone Campaign, organizer Dave Hickman wrote in his recent report on this meeting: "Upon hearing Schwartze's admission, concerned citizens called for investigation.  Schwartze dismissed accusations as "personal attacks" but was countered by Evan Davis who stated expectations for BOE officials to uphold the law should not be defined as personal attacks." That was indeed a dramatic moment as a bigger picture of the affairs of the Hocking County Board of elections emerged. A decision to "discuss" this matter was carried over as an agenda item for their next meeting of the board. Meanwhile, we wait with bated breath in anticipation.

The other shining moment in the meeting that will stick with me, is when everyone in the room shouted in rebuttal to Gerry Robinette's flimsy retort that there was "no evidence" that any such thing as an illegal Republican fundraiser "had taken place." Mocking laughter could then be heard erupting from the crowd. The meeting record will reveal that Lisa had just admitted there WAS a silent Chinese Auction having been carried out through the Hocking County BOE offices. Robinette's retort was surprising considering Schwartze's statements were already a matter of record. Gerry Robinette must not be a very good listener. Lame attempts to obfuscate the truth, at this point, seemed "after the fact", at best.

I agree though, with Hocking County Director Gerry Robinette's (D) statement that "all politics should stop at the door" at the Board of Elections offices in Hocking County.

Yes, not only is this recommended, it is the law. If I had had the chance to speak at this meeting, I would have made sure to comment that not only was partisan politics invited into the Hocking County BOE with a red carpet, it was enabled in a grand way. The fact that it is ILLEGAL for BOE Directors to engage in partisan political fundraising while on the job, must have eluded Hocking County BOE Director Lisa Schwartze, who felt comfortable breaking the law in her decision to initiate this type of activity out of a Board of Elections office.

Other things were brought to my attention regarding things Eaton witnessed while serving as Asst. Hocking BOE Director. Schwartze is alleged to have paid the said auction's caterer with a check, right from the office of the Hocking BOE, according to Eaton. Also, it should be noted that the Hocking BOE was being used to "store items being auctioned off" for the fundraiser. According to sources, it should be noted the Hocking County Republican Party has some ninety-thousand dollars in its coffers presently. In addition, meeting minutes from May 19, being public record, reveal the board violated the Health Insurance Accountability Act in disclosing Eaton's private medical information within these meeting minutes. Furthermore, off the $1928.03 In the invoice expense totals listed in these May 19 minutes, reveal that $900 dollars was owed to Triad GSI. My question is, what did The Hocking County Board of Elections actually get for the money?

The phrase I would use to describe the modus operandi of the Hocking County Board of Elections is "sloppy ineptitude." For example, also, never been properly addressed by this self-ruling body of the Hocking County Board of Elections, is the matter of Susan Hughes (D) "rehiring" herself without the board's approval. This move by Mrs. Hughes might be construed as an attempt by Hughes to maintain her health insurance as a legitimate employee of the Hocking County BOE. If Hughes did not follow protocol in the act of rehiring herself without board approval while "retired", should any decisions she has made since her "rehiring" be considered legally binding? That is the sixty-four-thousand dollar question.

I editorialize: An investigation is in order into the actions of the Hocking County BOE, I would say. In my humble opinion, the Hocking County BOE's misdirected effort to fire Sherole Eaton should backfire on the lot of them. Where incompetence and such corruption is enabled and rewarded to those who stray from the law, knowingly or not, how can we expect justice to be served for Sherole Eaton in such an environment? It is time for Secretary of State Blackwell to answer to the illegal actions of Lisa Schwartze, and the abuse of her office, according to the rule of law.

My overall impression of the Hocking County Board of Elections is that they look as thick as thieves, and exhibit a glaring incompetence in managing the simplest of tasks such as following the rule of law. Even an effort as simple as taking legible meeting notes, and following rules of order, seems beyond the leadership capabilities of this board. It appears as if they are simply accustomed to doing things in their own way, rule of law be damned.

Heaven help Ohio voters if this conduct is allowed in our Ohio Boards of Elections. In all reasonable assessment, Sherole Eaton might seem the ONLY employee on this board  worth retaining. She alone has acted with honesty and integrity in assisting the electors of Hocking County. Sherole Eaton should be reinstated in her former position with the Hocking County Board of Elections, while the lot of the rest of them should be fired. In the least, that is my considered opinion.