PREBLE COUNTY — The Preble County Board of Elections (BOE) is interested in working with the Preble County Commissioners to resolve its ongoing conflict regarding its location, while also providing a safe and accessible location for residents to vote and get information on upcoming elections.
According to BOE Chairperson Lisa Bruns, the discussion on space at the Preble County Courthouse actually began two years ago.
“We started looking for space, because we knew the 2020 election was coming and we were getting the new, expensive equipment and it had to be stored properly. We were going to have additional security issues, accessibility issues, so we were trying to be proactive in coming up with a solution,” Bruns said. “We didn’t just spring this on in May, this has been an ongoing [discussion]. The only thing we want is to conduct an adequate, secure, and accessible space for the voters.”
Space is still an issue Preble County Board of Elections is actively concerned about.
Board member Roy Spencer said, he has come into the office to see the Director and Deputy Director working on the floor because they don’t have room.
Bruns added, with the “new and expensive equipment” they cannot stack to save room when storing.
“They’re supposed to provide space by law for our offices and our equipment to do an adequate job,” Board member Gene Lindley said.
He added, the office doesn’t even have a counter for visitors to do business. They walk in and sit down at the Director and Deputy Director’s desks.
“They don’t need to have people come in and pound on the desk – we need a counter,” he said. There are other concerns BOE has regarding space, concerns that have brought them to request space elsewhere.
BOE is taking legal action against the Preble County Commissioners’ to receive $20,000 for legal counsel, but according to Gene Lindley, the Commissioners’ appropriated $15,000 to “defend themselves” against a potential lawsuit from BOE. As for where the legal battle stands now, Lindley says it is in the “court’s hands.”
“We haven’t heard anything more than the Commission was served. There hasn’t been anything since that point,” he said.
Bruns added, “We’re taking legal action to appropriate outside funds — as they have already — to give us fair legal representation.”
During this space discussion, BOE smelled a potential mold problem in the basement of the courthouse, where their equipment is supposed to be stored. This lead them to have radon, mold, and lead paint tested in the courthouse. They had this testing done over the weekend, but according to Bruns, this was a request their contracted expert made.
“Because we’re an independent board we decided, we wanted a safe environment for workers and we hired an outside contractor. At his suggestion, he ran the tests when he felt the best times were. That was his [suggestion] — he’s the expert,” she said.
Lindley said they do need to “sit down and talk,” but the Preble County Commissioners have refused to do so.
“[Our legal representation] asked them if they would like to talk about this. You know what they said? ‘No, not at this time.’ We do need to sit down and talk,” he said. “We’ve wanted to talk this whole time. We have not had that conversation, but we would be happy to talk with them if they were willing to sit down and hear us out.”
Bruns added, “We’re not trying to create an issue, we just know what issues are important to us, be it ADA or security. We have guidelines and rules that we have to follow. We’re not trying to create any trouble. We’re trying to look at what we deem necessary to do as a board to give the people of Preble County a fair, appropriate election with the guidelines we have.
“My goal, as Chair of the Board of Elections, is to give the voters of Preble County a place to conduct adequate, safe, secure, and accessible elections.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH