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7 seek $81,200 election board post

Decision may come Wednesday

YOUNGSTOWN — Among the seven applicants for the open Mahoning County Board of Elections deputy director position are a 16-year employee there, the Youngstown chief deputy clerk of courts, and a county Job and Family Services supervisor who is also the wife of a recently retired board member.

A committee will interview the seven applicants today and could have a recommendation in time for Wednesday’s board of elections meeting, said David Betras, a committee member who also is chairman of the elections board.

“Unless we have to do a second round of interviews, we’ll hire at the (Wednesday) board meeting,” he said. “It depends how (today’s) interviews go.”

The seven applicants who will be interviewed today are:

• Ann Simms of Youngstown, who has been the election board’s absentee and provisional supervisor since 2007 and spent two years before that as its voter registration supervisor.

She is the only internal applicant. Simms coordinates and supervises the election processes for registered voters, supervises more than 20 employees during election times, coordinates and supervises training and work assignments for new hires, performs audit and recount ballot procedures and processes absentee applications, according to her resume.

•  Melissa Wasko of Poland, who has worked at county Job and Family Services since October 1998. Since August 2016, she’s been program administrator. She is the wife of Bob Wasko, who retired Nov. 30 as a board of elections member for 21 years.

In her JFS job, she oversees service delivery with a staff of 80 workers that assist more than 80,000 residents each month and implemented the one-stop shop call center business model there, according to her application.

The county commissioners on Oct. 21 approved an “agreement and release of all claims” with Wasko that called for her voluntary resignation from JFS, effective Dec. 31.

Wasko’s stopped working at the JFS office on Oct. 21 and her “regular work site (is) her home or any other off-premises work site that Wasko chooses at her own expense that provides the capability of completing assigned projects,” according to the agreement she signed Oct. 18.

The agreement doesn’t specify what led to her leaving JFS.

The agreement required Wasko to return to JFS all county property in her possession or under her control and that by signing it she gave up her right to sue or pursue any claim or lawsuit against Mahoning County. She and the county also denied any liability or wrongdoing in connection with her employment and separation.

It states that her only communication with JFS or the board of county commissioners would be with JFS Director Audrey Morales or Karen U’Halie, county director of human resources, and that she is not permitted to talk to any other employees “regarding work-related matters during this time period.”

At the request of Betras, the Ohio Ethics Commission’s staff attorney sent him a Nov. 30 opinion that he could participate in reviewing the application, interview and vote to hire Wasko if she is a candidate. Betras, an attorney, represented her for a few months starting in June 2020, but no longer does.

The OEC opinion said Betras could participate in the process and vote on other former clients, but not on current ones.

•  Michele Clarett of Youngstown, who has served as Youngstown’s chief deputy clerk of courts since January 2000.

Clarett said she’s been involved in political campaigns over the past 25 years and is familiar with the office operations of the elections board, according to her application.

•  Martyn P. Moss of New Middletown, Youngstown State University’s manager of building services since July 2010.

•  Belinda Weiss of Campbell, Mahoning Valley Historical Society’s curatorial assistant guide coordinator since March 2011.

•  Alden Chevlen of Austintown, an attorney with a private practice since August 2008. Chevlen also had a private law practice 2001 to 2003 and 2005 to 2007. In between, he worked for law firms in Phoenix, Dallas and Cincinnati.

•  David Grager of Austintown, a substitute teacher at Mahoning County Educational Service Center since December 2019 and a Grubhub delivery driver since November 2018. Grager has worked for various Democratic campaigns in Ohio and Michigan.

Also, Rokey Suleman of St. Louis, a former Trumbull County Board of Elections deputy director with 17 years of election administration experience applied for the job and then withdrew from consideration.

Interviewing the applicants today are Betras; Joyce Kale-Pesta, the retired board director who now serves as a board member; Herb Washington, CEO and founder of HLW Fast Track Inc.; and Kathi McNabb Welsh, Mahoning County’s chief deputy clerk of courts.

All are Democrats as the person appointed to the job that pays $81,200 annually in salary will be a Democrat. State law requires the deputy director at boards of elections — if one is hired — to be from the opposing political party as the director.

After Kale-Pesta’s Nov. 30 retirement, the board named Republican Thomas McCabe, who was the deputy director, as the director.

Betras said he asked McCabe to participate in the interview process as he’ll be working side-by-side with the person appointed.

To be hired, the recommended candidate also will need the vote of at least one of the two Republican board members Sandra Barger and Bob Aurandt.

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