Clark County elections official quits, says he was ‘disrespected’

10:07 a.m. Monday, May 16, 2016 Politics

Clark County Board of Elections Deputy Director Tom Wilson has resigned after just two months on the job, saying he was “greatly disrespected” by a board member.

Wilson, a Democrat and a former Clark County assistant prosecutor, submitted a two-page resignation letter dated April 29 outlining multiple occasions when he felt mistreated by longtime board member Lynda Smith.

“These slights and offenses have made my position here tenuous at best, and my working conditions now feel hostile and unwelcoming. I have an actual, negative physical reaction to the thought of having to go to work, and I am anxious and uncomfortable at work. I deserve to be treated by all board members with courtesy and respect,” Wilson says in his letter.

Smith, a Republican, declined to comment but directed the Springfield News-Sun to a response letter she sent to the elections board.

“I have never been disrespectful to any full (or) part-time staff, board member or anyone else that entered the Board of Elections,” Smith says in her letter.

Elections Director Jason Baker, a Republican, said he was shocked by Wilson’s resignation.

Baker said he enjoyed working with Wilson and that he, Wilson and staff members had set short and long-term goals.

“In the short time we worked together I thought we worked quite well together … I’m sad to see him leave,” Baker said.

Wilson was hired in February as the director and was among eight candidates for the job. His first day was Feb. 22 and his starting pay was about $52,000.

In his resignation letter, Wilson said he was demoted weeks after he was hired without warning to the deputy director position during a March reorganization.

Baker, the former deputy director, was named director after elections boards received a directive from the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office to reorganize. The Clark County director and deputy director earn the same salary.

Wilson wrote that Smith could have told him during his interview of the plans to promote Baker.

“We could have easily coordinated that transfer. Instead, I was blindsided and treated with great disrespect,” he said. “It is not the action I found offensive, but the manner in which I was treated. It was embarrassing and my friends in the community took significant note of the slight.”

Smith says in her letter Wilson knew his job could change based on comments he made during a board meeting when he was hired and said he would be OK if he were appointed director or deputy director.

Wilson also expressed concern in his letter about how a complaint filed against him was handled by the board in an executive session and that Smith yelled at him during the meeting.

Smith denied yelling at Wilson, but noted in her letter that the board found the complaint valid.

Wilson mishandled a campaign finance issue when Deborah Burchett, a candidate for Clark County sheriff, received $105 cash donation but the cash limit for candidates is $100, Baker said.

Wilson went to the donor’s home instead of calling the treasurer or the candidate, an issue that Baker said he took full responsibility for since he’s the director.

Letters of apology were sent to Burchett and the contributor, Baker said.

Burchett called Wilson’s actions an “unauthorized investigation.”

“I am filing this formal complaint against Tom Wilson because it is unimaginable that contributors to my campaign would be harassed after making donations,” Burchett wrote in the complaint.

Wilson was then “grilled” on April 26 by Smith and Baker about his residency without a member of the Democratic party present, he says in his letter.

Baker listed both Grove City, a suburb of Columbus, and Springfield addresses on his resume. He owns property on West North Street and a condo he was renting on Derr Road in Springfield.

He said he told Baker and board members he planned to temporarily use the property on North Street until the end of his tenants’ lease on Derr Road.

Smith says in her letter that during the discussion, Wilson said he stayed in Columbus frequently and that when his address acknowledgement card was returned undeliverable he didn’t inform Baker.

“After our discussion, I told him that his word was good enough for me and that I hoped he wasn’t offended. We parted on friendly terms and the matter was closed as far as I was concerned,” Smith wrote.

Wilson wrote that he decided against filing a complaint against Smith because of the upcoming general election and wants staff to remain focused on the election.

Baker said the board will soon post the deputy director position.