By Lance Mihm
WAPAKONETA -- Auglaize County Board of Elections created a new position for ousted Elections Director Jean Burklo on Monday after hiring a new elections director and deputy director.
Following an hour-long executive session, Linda Householder of Wapakoneta was hired as elections director at $28,000 per year and Josie Schaub, currently a clerk in the office, was hired as the deputy director at $26,000.
The board created the new position of elections coordinator and hired Burklo for the spot.
The board agreed to pay Burklo $37,912 annually, a slight reduction in her salary as director. At that rate, Burklo would be making nearly $10,000 more annually than her supervisor, Householder.
Burklo was ordered dismissed from her position, effective April 15, after an investigation was released by Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's office April 5. The investigation found violations in laws governing petitions, public records, office administration and the voting process. "I feel that if we do not put her in that position, we are not doing our job as a board," board member Diana Hausfeld said. "We can't let 13 years experience just walk out the door. We have to run a successful election in May."
James Lee, a spokesman for Blackwell's office, said they have not yet received official notification of the board's most recent actions.
"If what you say actually happened, there will definitely be some questions for the board from this office," Lee said.
As part of being on administrative oversight, all board decisions are reviewed by Blackwell. Lee would not speculate on Blackwell's actions regarding the newest position.
The job description for Burklo includes responsibity for election equipment, training, overseeing field representatives during elections and other actions involved in the successful running of an election. The board plans to prepare a more accurate job description later on.
Jake Fashner, a representative from Blackwell's office, addressed the board after the meeting.
"It is obviously up to the secretary (Blackwell) to review and decide on this decision since the board is on oversight," Fashner said. "The report speaks for itself. It required the removal of the director. I don't think there was any question."
Hausfeld snap-ped back at Fashner in de-fense of Burklo.
"It is our job to make sure the election is run," Hausfeld said. "There are discrepancies in that (the secretary of state's) report. We were told to remove her as director and we did that. We aren't going to let 13 years of experience go."
Board member Wanda Kogge said that despite all of the findings, there was nothing in the report to indicate a bad election was run.
Board member Vern Naber said the board will be able to allocate money from other funds to pay for the added approximately $54,000 in annual payroll to keep Burklo in the office.
"We have been accused of having too much reliance on one person," Naber said. "So we are creating new positions. We have a small cushion. We will have to readjust our budget a little bit, but we will be fine."
Naber added the current trend has been for election boards to add positions because of increasing demand for accountability and accuracy.
State Rep. Derrick Seaver (R-Minster) was present at the meeting. He said he was there in support of Burklo.
"We need to have an effective election and Jean (Burklo) provides the best chance for that," Seaver said after the meeting.
All three positions were made effective until reorganization in February.