Posted: 6:00 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25, 2013

Butler County elections office wants board member investigated

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By Michael D. Pitman

Staff Writer


The Butler County Board of Elections is asking the Ohio Secretary of State to investigate one of its own board members for politicizing issues concerning two former employees who received full-time benefits for part-time work.

The board voted 3-1 to have member Dave Kern investigated for possible violations of his oath of office. Elections office board members Judy Shelton and Bruce Carter have also called to task Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds for not reporting any potential inaccurate accounting to the board as a whole.

Two employees — Brent Dixon and Garry Wayne Hicks — received full-time benefits for working as on-call special assistants during elections. Both resigned after the Nov. 5 election.

Carter and elections board chairman Frank Cloud voted to bring back those two employees because of their institutional knowledge.

Last week, Kern, a Liberty Twp. trustee and Butler County GOP Executive Committee chair, called the elections board to task for allowing these employees, one of whom is the son of Butler County Commissioner Don Dixon, to be considered full-time employees with benefits even though they work part-time hours.

Cloud, Carter and Kern supported the motion to ask the Secretary of State to give an opinion if Kern was proper and in compliance with his responsibilities to this board. They will submit board meeting minutes, a report of the actions and statements made by Kern about the lack of trust he has for the board.

The motion, made by Carter, also asked the Secretary of State to give the board a determination of what actions, if any, should be taken “including but not limited to dismissal as a board member.”

Kern supported the motion because, “I know I didn’t do anything wrong, and I’m proud of what I have done.”

Kern did bring the issue up to the board in July and asked for a report on how much the special assistants are paid and how often they worked. Kern said Monday that was never done. According to board minutes, it was stated in that meeting the election special assistants are considered full-time employees but do not work full-time hours and are eligible for benefits.

Shelton, who is the Butler County GOP Central Committee chair, voted against involving the Secretary of State.

“I feel like it’s a topic like that we can handle internally,” Shelton said after the meeting.

Kern called the discussion that ensued after the motion and before the vote “choreographed” and “rehearsed.”

Last week, Kern said that the payroll reports involving Dixon and Hicks were “falsified” and there appeared to be an attempt to “cover up” the issue.

He said he was told by Board of Elections Director Lynn Kinkaid the opinion sent by Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser was protected from public consumption under attorney-client privilege, but he didn’t believe that.

Gmoser told The Journal-News there was no criminal wrongdoing.

Kern said after Reynolds brought the matter to his attention, he went to Gmoser because, “I thought it would be swept under the table.”

Carter said not bringing the matter to the board’s attention was “underhanded and behind the board’s back so that the public is hidden from the discussion” and any accusation the board would act improperly “personally offends me.”

The special assistant positions will be a topic of discussion at a future board meeting, likely after the Ohio Secretary of State issues some type of opinion or directive. The board will meet on Dec. 3 concerning the Fairfield schools bond issue recount, and its next regular session is on Dec. 16.

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