By DENISE GRANT
OTTAWA — The Putnam County Board of Elections has ended its feud over the appointment of a deputy director, voting to name a new officer Tuesday.
Chairman Virginia Price said the board voted 3-1 to name Rebecca Hermiller, a Republican, as the new deputy director. Hermiller replaces fellow Republican Shelly Burkhart. Burkhart has served as the board’s deputy director since January 2009.
Hermiller works in a medical office and has an extensive computer background, Price said.
A dispute over the appointment of both the elections board director and deputy director began March 5, as the board attempted to reorganize. Republican board members Price and Tom Jerwers favored replacing both Burkhart and Karen Lammers, who has served as director since October 2008.
Price said the elections board, which includes three recently-appointed members, needed to appoint its own, new directors.
However, Democratic board member Anthony Wobler accused both Price and Jerwers of holding grudges and acting on misinformation. He called it a witch hunt.
In September, Secretary of State Jon Husted appointed both Wobler and Democrat Carla Tooman to the elections board to finish the unexpired terms of Ann Dillinger and Martin Kuhlman. Dillinger and Kuhlman were removed from the board by Husted after they were found to have violated Ohio’s open meeting laws.
Last week, the elections board voted to reappoint Lammers as director by a 3-1 vote, with Price dissenting. However, there was no agreement on a deputy director, and an appeal was made to Husted to settle the dispute.
Matt McClellan, a spokesperson for Husted’s office, said the secretary prefers these types of disputes be handled locally. State law requires the elections board to vote at least five times on director appointments before the secretary of state can intervene.
Ohio requires bipartisan representation on each of Ohio’s 88 county boards of elections. Each board is made up of two Republicans and two Democrats, all of whom must be voters in the counties where they serve. The secretary of state makes appointments to elections boards based on the recommendations of county political parties.
McClellan said the recent appointment of Price to the board was a local decision, with the Putnam County Republican Party recommending her for the appointment.
Price was fired as elections board director in October 2008, after being accused of installing software upgrades to the election board’s computer system without authorization from the state. She sued the elections board and the county for wrongful termination, and settled out of court. Price said she was exonerated of any wrongdoing during the court proceedings.
McClellan said Husted is aware of that incident, but found Price to be competent to serve on the elections board.
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