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03-03-06 Director’s ouster likely done illegally

By Janie Southard

  The decision to oust Linda Huber as Auglaize County elections board director was made by board members before the board met in public session Thursday morning, a clear violation of Ohio's Sunshine Law.

  New board member Mary Dee Malueg, a former election board director and recent part-time clerk in the county elections office, said she prepared a typed press statement Wednesday to say "the decision to replace Linda was very difficult for me ..." The board did not hold any public meetings prior to Thursday to discuss the issue.

  In a telephone conversation with The Daily Standard this morning, Malueg said the decision was made "a couple days" before the vote at Thursday's reorganization meeting.

  "Yes, we talked it over beforehand. But we never met together as a board. Never," she said adding she "probably shouldn't comment further."

  According to Ohio Sunshine Laws, every public body must take all official actions and "hold all deliberations" on official business in meetings that are open to the public.  Although Malueg had an "inkling" Huber would not be elected, she did not know Carolyn Campbell would be the winner in the board's election during which then-clerk Peggy Metheny also was nominated for the position.

Campbell won the election with three votes. Metheny received one vote, but was later unanimously elected dep-uty director.

  As to her typed statement, Malueg said she had prepared several different statements for the press as she anticipated the meeting would be stressful for her and she "would not be able to comment."

  Huber told The Daily Standard this morning "board meetings have always been afterthoughts."

  "My deputy director commented several times that she saw the board meeting out in the hallway prior to meetings. I was concerned because one of my goals was to get us off oversight," Huber said, referring to the state putting the board on administrative oversight for not doing its job properly.

  She stated further "the board of elections was used to doing things in secret and behind closed doors. They used executive sessions to cover some of their actions and to avoid public scrutiny."

  The board was placed on oversight by the secretary of state's office last year after former Director Jean Burklo was removed from her county employment due to improprieties in office.

  In a prepared statement received from Huber, she said she quickly realized when she took the director's job the board "wanted only a figurehead or a puppet" to stand in for Burklo.

  "One of the board members ultimately admitted that had been the plan," she wrote.

  Although her dismissal came as a shock, Huber said she has the satisfaction of knowing she was not replaced for failing to do her job. No one on the board or elsewhere ever addressed any problems or concerns with Huber's performance, she said.

  "I was replaced because I wanted to do the job without secrecy and with full accountability to the citizens of Auglaize County," she said.


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