By Janie Southard
The Auglaize County elections board ranked sixth in the state for travel expenses in 2004 among Ohio's 88 counties.
The only county election boards that spent more on travel costs were the five largest counties, whose major cities include Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo.
The most recent annual report from the Secretary of State's office documenting expenses to conduct elections for the year ending Dec. 31, 2004, shows Auglaize County spent $13,524 for traveling in one year.
Like-sized local counties trailed Auglaize by several thousand dollars: Mercer, $3,247 and Van Wert, $1,644. Even Allen County tallied in with only $11,798.
Most trips involved the entire four-member Auglaize board or at least the majority of the members and lasted longer than the actual conference. For example, the seven-day trip to San Antonio, Texas, for an International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers (IACREOT) conference cost taxpayers $5,028.33. The conference ran five days, July 16-21, with Burklo and three board members (Ken Nuss, Wanda Kogge and Larry Fledderjohann) staying until July 23.
The expense voucher for the full seven days was submitted by Director Jean Burklo and was approved for payment on July 26, 2004, by board chairman Vernon Naber and Burklo, as is the usual procedure.
That expense included four rooms for two adults each at $164.62 per night at the Hilton in San Antonio. The total lodging cost was $4,609.33, with an additional $315.92 spent on meals and $103.05 spent on parking/shuttle, according to copies of receipts gathered by the newspaper.
Attendance at IACREOT conferences is at the discretion of the membership and is not mandated by the Ohio Secretary of State's office. The state only mandates attendance at certain in-state conferences.
The budget for the board of elections office is approved and overseen by the Auglaize County Commissioners. The board's money comes out of the county's general fund.
Auglaize County Administrator Joe Lenhart said the commissioners review the budget and make revisions before turning over a set amount of money to the board of elections. The board then decides how its budget is used.
According to the Secretary of State's 2004 annual report, dollar figures for top travel expenses in the state were:
¥ $36,914 for Franklin County (Columbus), which has 788 precincts.
¥ $35,931 for Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), which has 1,436 precincts.
¥ $20,289 for Hamilton County (Cincinnati), which has 1,013 precincts.
¥ $15,656 for Montgomery County (Dayton), which has 588 precincts.
¥ $15,172 for Lucas County (Toledo), which has 495 precincts. Auglaize County has 39 precincts, with Mercer having 37, Van Wert, 39, and Allen, 139.
Other receipts obtained by the newspaper show a $2,580 trip for Burklo to Denver, Colo., in 2003, where she stayed at the Adam's Mark hotel; and a $4,349 trip in 2002 for Burklo, Naber, Kogge and Kathy Ankerman to Kansas City, Kan., where they stayed at The Westin. Another receipt shows a conference in Poland, Ohio, in 2003 cost the board $976.74 for Burklo and all four members.
The report for 2005 travel expenses will be released in January 2007.