WILMINGTON — The Clinton County Board of Elections (BOE) apparently will not move out of the courthouse to Nelson Avenue until after the fall General Election.
BOE Director Shane Breckel told commissioners Wednesday he and the BOE deputy director had been working toward a July move, but a number of factors make a relocation next month no longer workable.
Two commissioners in particular were critical of the news, and Common Pleas Judge John W. “Tim” Rudduck, who wants to see his Adult Probation Department in less cramped and more private quarters in the current BOE space, described the development “a big, big disappointment.”
In anticipation of the BOE moving to the County Annex Building on South Nelson Avenue, the public defender staff has already relocated from the Annex to a small space in the courthouse, something everyone has called a temporary arrangement. Other temporary accommodations for the public defender staff may be the first order of business now that the timeline for their move to a permanent place has been postponed.
Clinton County Board of Elections member Joe D. Daugherty told commissioners that with a federal election this November, “We really can’t take the chance on trying to split the election between here [courthouse] and another building [Annex].”
The Ohio Secretary of State (SoS) Office plays a role in the move, said BOE officials, and having to meet the requirements of that third party in Columbus makes a move before the fall election season more difficult if the BOE is to avoid a rushed re-location and administer the fall General Election well.
Those Secretary of State requirements include making any corrections mandated by an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) inspection report regarding access to the Annex by people with handicaps; installation by the SoS of fiber optics to the new space; and meeting all security requirements of the SoS.
Further complicating matters is the prospect of the BOE staff needing to meet a deadline to check petitions for perhaps three state issues, Breckel said.
Clinton County Commissioner Brenda K. Woods said her biggest frustration with the news is that she felt the long process of planning and carrying out the moves of several county departments was finally moving forward “and again there’s an issue with the board of elections. It just seems to be repetitive — once again put on the back burner by the board of elections.”
Clinton County Commissioner Kerry R. Steed said, in part, of the planned office re-locations, “The point is everyone is being a team player here in this moment except for the board of elections.”
Breckel replied, “With all due respect, you don’t know what administering an election is. I’m just kind of feeling disrespected by you right now.”
Clinton County Board of Elections member Ann Reno spoke of the long hours the BOE office staffers put in, and then she said “now to scold them” seemed ridiculous.
Daugherty said all he wants in his capacity on the local elections board are “good, clean elections in Clinton County.” His goal has never been to fight with commissioners or fuss with the judge, Daugherty added.
Toward the conclusion of the meeting, Rudduck said he frankly had not heard anything that struck him as insurmountable to making a move this summer, but added he accepts the word of the BOE officials in that regard.
Before the end of the appointment, Clinton County Commissioners President Patrick Haley wanted to clarify whether the BOE is ultimately willing to move to the Annex. The two elections board members present, Daugherty and Reno, expressed that they are, with Reno indicating she is resigned to the idea.
The elections board is comprised of four people, but one was absent due to medical reasons and the fourth spot is vacant after the death of Richard Sutton.
After the meeting, BOE Deputy Director Jay Peterson said in his opinion the County Annex site on Nelson Avenue would currently not pass an ADA inspection by an Ohio Secretary of State official.
At one point during the meeting Haley said confusion can be caused by a lack of clarification and communication between the BOE and commissioners, “and obviously there’s a lot of confusion in this room right now.”
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.