Ruling doesn#8217;t answer questions

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ohio’s Supreme Court made the right decision but it did little to answer lingering questions surrounding the termination of a former elections board director.

The court refused to order Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to seat Mary Wipert as a member on the Lawrence County Board of Elections.

Despite the complexities of a situation that has been fraught with missteps and mistakes, the court made the right decision because not enough was done to show that Brunner abused her power in rejecting a bid to place the former director on the very same board that terminated her employment a year prior. It is reasonable to think such an arrangement would create tension and prevent the board from working as smoothly as possible. Ultimately, the voters could have been the ones to suffer.

Email newsletter signup

While some people will argue Brunner didn’t do enough investigating before rejecting this nomination, it appears that the Secretary of State did make a genuine effort to get answers, saw enough proverbial smoke, presumed there was some proverbial fire and opted to exercise her right to appoint someone else.

The entire ordeal has been marked by controversy. Many questions remain unanswered.

In February 2007, three members of the local board of elections — two Democrats and one Republican — voted to fire Wipert as elections director after more than 20 years on the job.

The big problem here is that voters were never given an answer as to why. Even Wipert herself and the chairman of the Republican Party say they were never given an answer.

This secrecy raises concerns since it involved someone who oversaw four presidential and dozens of local elections.

What did this board see that led to this decision?

Brunner’s comments only raises more questions. She cited a variety of reasons for not confirming Wipert including allegations she engaged in improper partisan political activity and that there had been concerns about the handling of election petitions.

Voters need to know specifically what Brunner was told locally to make these conclusions. It is the responsibility of the local board to answer these questions.

Another issue revolves around thousands of dollars in salary and benefits that were paid to Wipert after she was terminated.

Taxpayers need to know whose fault this was and if these funds have been recouped.

For the Ohio Supreme Court, this case may be closed. But for the Lawrence County voter, it remains a matter with many unanswered questions.