The Brown County Board of Elections is looking for new leadership.
During a special meeting on Aug. 5, both Director Kathy Jones and Deputy Director Elizabeth Thorne-McKenzie submitted their resignations, leaving the Board of Elections with two positions to fill in short notice.
It’s the latest bit of drama in an office that hasn’t been short of it over the past 12 months, whether it was squabbling between board members on the Democratic and Republican sides or the back and forth that went on over Jones’ payout when she retired in November 2014.
“The Brown County Board of Elections has been charged by the (Ohio) Secretary of State to manage and oversee the elections process in Brown County,” reads a press release from the Board of Elections. “In light of the events that have occurred over a period of time, we are concerned with the overall view the voters have of our office. We can all agree that this office is not being run in the most professional manner that it could be. At this point it is not fixable with who we are working with and we needed to take action.
“The main focus for everyone sitting on this board is to protect the integrity of our elections. We must do whatever it takes to maintain the integrity of our elections in Brown County. We as leaders of this process must realize that there is a weakness and division in our office. We need to move forward with a fresh start. We will be replacing the officers of the Board of Elections.”
Board of Elections member Dallas Hurt said that both Jones and Thorne-McKenzie’s resignations were their decisions, and they weren’t pressured into the decision.
The Brown County Commissioners declined to comment on the situation, instead referring to the press release sent by the Board of Elections.
There is no timetable yet for when the next director and deputy director will be hired, though if the current set up remains, it’s expected that the director would be a Democrat and the deputy director would be a Republican. For that to switch, Mariah Votel, a Republican, would have to step down as chair of the Board of Elections.
The Ohio Secretary of State’s office has opened lines of communication with the Board of Elections and is working with them through the process of finding a new director and deputy director.
“We’ve reached out to the board and reminded them of the minimum qualifications of the director and deputy director and shared with them recent job postings to help replace the people that resigned,” Ohio Secretary of State press secretary Joshua Eck said. “Our elections department is going to host a weekly conference call with the board members to make sure in their absence they are still meeting deadlines. We’re coming up on an election season now.”
Eck, and members of the Board of Elections, wanted to assure the citizens of Brown County that the upcoming elections will still be organized and managed smoothly.
“We will run an efficient election in the county but (the current situation is) not the most ideal way of managing it, so we do need to make sure the staff members get replaced,” Eck said.