MIAMI COUNTY — Former Miami County Board of Elections director Beverly Kendall has filed a civil suit against the Miami County Board of Elections and two of its board members, claiming they violated the Ohio Open Meetings Acts and defamation.
The civil suit was filed in Miami County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday. The lawsuit names Miami County Board of Elections members Robert Long and chairman David Fisher as defendants for alleged defamatory statements they made prior to her termination. Kendall is seeking to be reinstated as director and to receive back payment and benefits from the date of her termination on Jan. 22.
“As chairman of the board, the board is running really well,” said Fisher on Wednesday. He declined to comment further on the matter. The Miami Valley Today contacted Long, who has not returned the request for a comment.
Kendall claims the board decided during the executive session to fire her, which violated Ohio Open Meetings Acts laws and thus, makes their decision to fire her invalid.
She also alleges that Fisher and Long “acted with actual malice” and “recklessly, intentionally, and/or maliciously published false and defamatory statements, orally, when they made public statements that the errors from the November 2018 General Election fell squarely on the shoulders of the director, and they had lost confidence in her ability to fulfill her duties.”
Kendall claims the statements were “injurious” and defamatory, “because defendants made claims against Kendall that reflected upon her character by bringing her into ridicule, hatred, or contempt” and impacted her in her trade.
During the November 2018 general election, 6,288 early ballots cast at the Board of Elections office went uncounted. The votes did not change any of outcomes of the election.
The Secretary of State’s office found the error in December and notified the board of discrepancies in its voting records.
The Miami County Board of Elections voted 3-1 in January to fire Kendall. Former board member Ryan King was the lone vote to keep Kendall in office. Following the board’s action, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose placed the board on oversight and opened an investigation of the board and the uncounted votes.
In the suit, Kendall claims the board asked her to resign from her position or she would be terminated during an executive session for employee discipline and termination on Jan. 22, 2019. Kendall was present during the executive session, according to the suit. In the suit, Kendall “believed she did nothing wrong during the November 2018 election.” Kendall declined the board’s request to resign and then left the session. Once the board adjourned the executive session and resumed its regular meeting, Long made the motion to terminate Kendall as director effective immediately.
Prior to the motion, Long stated that Kendall was “responsible for providing accurate information to the board of elections regarding election results and she failed to do that of a magnitude of over 6,200 votes. Long said he lost all confidence in Kendall’s abilities to fulfill her duties as director.”
Fisher seconded the motion to terminate Kendall. He allegedly stated “this falls directly on the Director’s shoulders. There were things terribly missed, and it is unfortunate.”
According to the lawsuit, Kendall is seeking damages in excess of $25,000 for “significant emotional distress as a result of these injurious allegations and her reputation in the community and her career as an elections official were severely damaged by these statements.” She names Fisher and Long as the defendants who allegedly defamed her and her character. In the suit, Kendall claims their statements were false and caused her “significant emotional distress and her reputation in the community and her career as a government employee were severely damaged by these statements, in excess of $25,000.”
Kendall was hired as the board of elections director in July 2016.
In other news:
Miami County Board of Elections is gearing up for its Nov. 5 general election.
Director Laura Bruns and deputy director Ian Ridgeway conducted a public test of its new voting equipment at the regular board meeting on Tuesday. Officials ran results from three precincts, which matched to the tabulated results. Bruns reported approximately 1,000 votes by mail or in-person have been received so far. Bruns reported the signage directing early voters to go to the Hobart Government Center for early voting has been successful. The board moved early voting due to the construction of the Miami County Courthouse Plaza.
Bruns said feedback from early voters so far has been positive. She said many voters have made the remark of “That’s it?” and have found the new voting system user-friendly.
“No complaints. People are pretty pleased it’s working,” she said.
The board agreed to meet at 6 p.m. at the board office on Nov. 5 prior to the polls closing. Bruns asked if board members would be interested in pairing up in bi-partisan teams to visit polling locations. After discussion, board members agree to continue to visit their assigned poll locations on their own. Board members stated they try to visit each location at least twice during the election day.
The board approved to contract with the West Milton Rotary Club for $2,575 to deliver and return the voting machines for the Nov. 5 election. It was the only bid received by the board. Bruns also reported that poll worker training has gone well.
The board tabled the discussion of employee compensation for 2020 until after the November election.
Reach Melanie Yingst at email@example.com
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