Miami County’s Board of Elections voted March 19 to first rescind a January 2017 vote to terminate deputy director Eric Morgan from his position before voting an hour later to fire him again.
The board met in two closed executive sessions on the road to taking the action. After the first closed session, the board voted unanimously to rescind the firing, noting in the motion that the 2017 motion was “not sufficiently specific.”
After another hour of closed discussions with lawyers, the board heard from elections Director Bev Kendall on alleged incidents leading to the termination. It then voted unanimously to terminate Morgan from the position effective that day, March 19.
Only one of the four board members involved in the March 19 votes was on the board in January 2017. Ryan King, a Republican, has since been joined by Republican Rob Long and Democrats Dave Fisher and Audrey Gillespie.
Board members Dean Tamplin, a Democrat, and Jose Lopez, a Republican, left the board in early 2017 at the end of their terms.
Morgan, a Bethel Township resident, in January 2018 filed a lawsuit in Miami County Common Pleas Court against the board and Tamplin challenging the firing and accusing Tamplin of defamation for statements made following the 2017 vote. The lawsuit is pending.
Among its claims was the board vote was not legal because it allegedly failed to follow requirements for meeting to discuss Morgan’s job.
The law office representing Morgan said his lawyer was out of town. Calls were referred to another lawyer in the firm, who failed to respond.
County Prosecutor Tony Kendell and assistant prosecutor Chris Englert met in closed session with the board along with another attorney for the electiosn board from Columbus who participated by phone. Also in the closed session were county Commissioner Greg Simmons and Leigh Williams, the commission’s clerk/administrator.
Elections Director Kendall told the board that Morgan allegedly violated the terms of a workplace romance agreement signed with the board in fall 2016.
In that agreement, made public at the time, Morgan agreed to not act in a supervisory role with an office clerk with whom he was involved in a “romantic relationship.”
Kendall and Englert said Morgan allegedly violated the agreement terms by directing the employee in handling of provisional ballots before the November 2016 election. Kendall said she learned of that direction while questioning the employee about why the ballots were being processed at a particular time.
The clerk has since left the elections office for another job.
Prosecutor Kendell said the impact of the board’s first vote – to rescind the firing – and then the vote to fire him effective that day remains to be determined.
Among issues would be Morgan’s pay with the firing now being effective March 19, 2018.