A long-time employee of the Mahoning County Board of Elections — a Republican, no less — reacting to this writer’s contention that the four members of the board should resign or be fired, offered his insight into why things have gone from bad to worse at the elections office: It has to do with incompetence, not corruption.
There are staff members who are just so dumb, they can’t get the job done, he said. So, why are they on the public payroll when there are loads of college graduates who are leaving the area because they can’t find jobs? the deputy clerk was asked. Because they’re political appointees, replied the man who got his job through politics.
He is not being identified because his appraisal of what’s going on at the elections office was refreshingly candid — and could have repercussions.
But what about the basic premise of the board of elections system, which is that having an equal number of Democrats and Republicans means employees looking over each other’s shoulders and the four members of the board serving as watchdogs.
The blurring of the party lines, along too cozy a relationship among the four board members, Democrats Michael Morley and Robert Wasko and Republicans Clarence Smith and Mark Munroe, have meant that glaring mistakes by staff are swept under the rug.
Indeed, the board’s failure to enforce a three-day suspension without pay on Director Thomas McCabe, a Republican, and a five-day suspension without pay on deputy clerk Danielle O’Neill, a Democrat and sister-in-law of Probate Judge Mark Belinky, for the glaring mishandling of the sales tax issue last year shows a disregard for the public.
The recent flap over the independent candidacy petitions for the 17th District congressional seat filed by Congressman-turned-federal prisoner James A. Traficant Jr. once again spotlighted the dysfunctional operation of the board of elections.
As for the unnamed deputy clerk’s assertion that the folks at the board aren’t corrupt, they’re just incompetent, this jury of one is still out. There are lots of questions that need to be answered.