By Tim Cox
A supposedly routine meeting took a bizarre twist Wednesday afternoon when the Auglaize County Board of Elections eliminated the office's deputy director position, demoting Deputy Director Josie Schaub to a clerk position.
But later that same evening, the board met in emergency session, where they reinstated the deputy director position and reinstalled Schaub in the job.
Elections Director Linda Huber called Wednesday's happenings "a bombshell" that occurred during a meeting where elections officials originally were simply going to take inventory of new equipment in the office.
Board Chairman Stan Wietholter sought to add an executive session to discuss employee compensation to the agenda. That was done and the four board members met for nearly an hour behind closed doors.
When they emerged from the private meeting, they changed some pay scales but also eliminated the deputy director's post, without explanation. "I was stunned," Huber said.
As the day proceeded, however, elections officials began reviewing an order handed down several months ago by Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. During a tumultuous period that resulted in the removal of former director Jean Burklo from the office, Blackwell ordered the Auglaize board to hire a new director and deputy director.
Wednesday's actions went against what "Columbus was wanting," Huber said. "This was a true violation of the secretary of state's order."
An emergency meeting was hastily called for 8 p.m. and the board reconvened to undo its earlier action. Board members attempted to convene another secret executive session, but Toni Slusser, who is providing oversight to the board for Blackwell's office, prevented the move. All discussions during an emergency session are to be conducted publicly, she said.
The board voted 3-0, with board member Diana Hausfeld abstaining, to create the deputy director position and move Schaub back into the post.