Emotions run high at the State Board of Elections Meeting

09/18/2018 07:50 PM

FRANKFORT— A call for an ambulance, raised voices and a threat to call security marked the September meeting of Kentucky’s Board of Elections.
The meeting started off as any other would, with introductions and approving the minutes from the previous meeting.

However, thirty minutes into the meeting that changed. The director for Kentucky’s NAACP, Raoul Cunningham, collapsed in his chair and was unresponsive. Doctors who happened to be in a meeting at the Capitol provided CPR until paramedics arrived. Cunningham was taken to the hospital in Louisville, where he is said to be recovering with his family.

When the meeting resumed, they went back to the business of preparing for the November election. Around noon, the meeting changed tone.
Republican board member DeAnna Brangers voiced a concern about a resolution passed in August. She said, “I want to make a motion that we rescind that motion passed at the August 28 meeting.”

On August 28, following a complaint made by the State Board of Elections Executive Director, Jared Dearing, the board voted unanimously to reaffirm the role of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, confirming her position as the chairwoman of the board and giving her oversight of the board.

Following Brangers request, Grimes said “In terms of the motion that Member Brangers has raised, at our last meeting it was a unanimous bipartisan decision to reaffirm the work of this board and to not let any outside agency, the Executive Branch ethics, the Personnel Cabinet or any other agency determine how this board is to be run.”

Just five days after the Personnel Board opened an investigation into claims Grimes used voter data to make hiring decisions, members of the board were re-thinking their decision.

Brangers said, “This resolution has been floated around a lot these past few weeks and quite frankly, I’ve come to regret my vote on it.”
She wasn’t alone. Other Republicans on the board agreed. Fellow Republican Josh Banscom agreed, saying “Like wise, I regret my vote.”
When a vote was taken, the board voted along party lines, with Grimes casting the tie-breaking vote to keep the August 28 resolution in place.

At the meeting, a heated argument broke out between Grimes ad Dearing.

In part of that exchange, Grimes asked for security to be called.

It started when Grimes gave Dearing the floor, saying “Executive Director Dearing, if you have something pertinent to offer to this, you’ll have the floor for a minute.”

Dearing took that opportunity to speak his mind. “The Secretary is saying she is getting this information, just as any other political individual. But her staff have access to the direct point of access to the voter registration database.” Dearing continued, “They can go in, they can look at things. As a matter of fact, I have evidence here of Lindsay Thurston going in and looking at documents for our employees, for our board members.”

At that point, Grimes broke in, saying “Executive Director Dearing, I’m going to cut you off. That information is at the request of our board counsel that has requested that. And I’m going to cut you off because you’re being-”

While she was speaking, Dearing continued talking, saying “You gave me a minute.”

After Grimes said she was cutting her off, the argument escalated.

Talking over each other, Dearing said, “Commission members, they’ve gone into the voter registration database to look at the ethics branch commission members.”

At the same time, Grimes kept telling Dearing “Executive Director Dearing, I’m going to ask that you leave.”

Grimes then told the room, “We’ll need to get security.”
In the end, Capitol Police were not called, but emotions remained high.

When Dearing was called on to give his report, he instead spoke of his grievance with Grimes. “The Secretary has authority and powers that no Secretary prior to her has. That’s a fact. Access personally to the voter registration database, access to poll workers, more over the day to day management of our offices.”

As Dearing said that, Grimes could be heard on Spectrum News’ microphone telling the board attorney she doesn’t have access to poll workers and asking him to correct that for the record.

Dearing continued, “Why do Jenni [Scutchfield] and I have two different party affiliations? We are to serve as a check and balance.”

As Dearing was talking, Grimes was also heard on a hot microphone asking the board attorney if they should go into closed session.”

At that point, they stayed in open session, but the tension remained.

Speaking to Brangers, Grimes said “The fundamental question is, does the State Board of Elections want to exercise, in conjunction with the Chief Election office and the Chair, oversight over that voter registration system as is provided in the statutes is a responsibility of the State Board of Elections to oversee our election laws, by way of making sure- spot checking, use the terminology you want, to have access to the same information that we’re giving our parties to ensure the data orders that we are fulfilling to the best of our knowledge and ability are complete and accurate. That is the motion before the board.

Then voices were raised again- this time to Assistant Executive Director Jennifer Scutchfield.

Grimes spoke to her, saying “Assistant to the Executive Director Scutchfield, you are not in a position, are not in a position, nor are you chair of this meeting. And I will ask you to leave unless you can exercise respect for the chair who is sitting here. You know the answer to that question. You’ve already conducted your own background investigation, placing your own employees, subordinates in an inappropriate position. The information has not been obtained from Sheila Walker. It’s been obtained by I-T staff.”

Those raised voices continued for a while longer, after which they were able to get back to regular business.

As they finished the regular business, Grimes moved to go into closed session, saying they needed to discuss cyber security, litigation and personnel matters.

The closed session lasted for hours.

On Friday, Jared Dearing had told the Personnel Board he expected to be fired following this meeting. He was wrong. When the board came back from closed session, two hours later, he and everybody else still had their job.

This is far from over, as the Personnel Cabinet and the Board of Personnel have opened investigations into the allegations Dearing has made about Grimes.


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