The Athens County Board of Elections had a bit of a hectic fall.
Between controversy of moving precincts around to an audit reporting several concerns with the Board, those staffing the office were faced with a level of scrutiny not always applied to the elections board.
Precinct changes cause uproar
In February, the Board had voted to relocate Nelsonville’s voting precincts, 3-1, with Board member Kate McGuckin voting against the measure. This was later reversed, but anger and frustration at the news was quickly expressed by Nelsonville residents, with a few even live-streaming the walk from town to the new locations to show how dangerous and difficult it would be.
Penny Brooks, the board’s deputy director, said in February that about a half-dozen complaints had been received from Nelsonville residents because they would no longer be able to walk to the polls. Nelsonville 1 and 2 precincts were moved from the Nelsonville Public Library, and Nelsonville 3 and 4 were moved from the Wesleyan Church.
The four Nelsonville precincts, as well as Buchtel Village and York Twp. precincts, were moved to 803 Burr Oak Blvd., (the location of C&J Tax Service). The changes were put into effect for the May primary election, although there was no primary in Nelsonville.
Other precincts that moved are:
- Athens South, from Hocking Valley Sportsman to Beacon School
- Carthage Twp., from the fire department building to Federal Hocking Middle School
- Lodi Twp., from Shade Community Center to Alexander High School (which has also generated a few complaints)
- New Marshfield precinct, from the fire department to Alexander High School
- Waterloo Twp., from the Waterloo Community Senior Center to Alexander High School
The board votes on all these changes were unanimous.
Another unanimous vote in March reversed the Board’s decision, moving Nelsonville 1 and 2 precincts back to the Nelsonville Public Library and Nelsonville 3 and 4 precincts to the Wesleyan Church.
Also, Buchtel and York Twp. precincts, which had also been slated to vote at C&J, will not do so. Buchtel will remain at St. Mary of the Hills Catholic Church, and York Twp. will stay at the Church of the Nazarene.
The board left in place February’s decision to move Carthage Twp. precinct to Federal Hocking Middle School, and to move Athens South precinct to Beacon School.
Audit finds payroll, HR concerns
The Auditor of State’s Office reported numerous concerns with the Athens County Board of Elections in a recent audit, with the results showing payroll errors, questionable hiring practices and a lack of formal human resources policies that could have prevented these problems.
These “significant deficiencies” included improper overtime payments totaling $1,603 to eight elections employees, two of which are related to Debra Quivey, the office’s director. This led to concerns of nepotism within the office.
The results of the audit led to condemnation from the Secretary of State, which oversees county elections offices. LaRose said he was “disappointed” and set an Oct. 18 deadline for proposed changes to be made. The county commissioners and county auditor also sent a letter to the office with suggestions of their own.
Quivey and Brooks addressed the audit and subsequent fallout in an interview with The Messenger on Friday. The two said they have complied with LaRose’s deadline and have worked “diligently” on developing new policies for their office.
Quivey said she and Brooks had worked with members of the elections board to create a human resources and personnel policy manual. Some of the policies were adopted from the Athens County Commissioners, while others, such as the timekeeping and overtime policies, were created by the elections board and staff.
The two said the overtime payments reported were not “done intentionally” and noted the money was immediately repaid.
While not specifically addressing the state’s concern about nepotism, they said changes have been made to the hiring of elections office personnel. Quivey said the two will make recommendations, and the four-person governing board will make the actual hiring and firing decisions.
Shortly thereafter, the board voted to change how the director and deputy director are paid, making them salaried employees.