Pro-levy supporters probed

Erie County Board of Elections investigates students ushering Ohio Veterans Home residents to polls
Sandusky Register Staff
Aug 22, 2013
Perkins Schools levy supporters recruited Ohio Veterans Home Alzheimer’s patients to vote for their cause, according to allegations raised by Erie County Board of Elections officials.
 
All four board members — two Democrats and two Republicans — based this charge on a letter they received from a local resident who often visits the veterans home.
 
Board member Amy Grubbe verified she saw students ushering veterans to the polls, located at the OVH, but she couldn’t determine if pro-levy supporters persuaded residents to vote “yes.” 
 
The complainant, Bob Weichel, said in a letter to the board that “a Perkins athletic coach accompanied a Perkins Schools girls athletic team to the Ohio Veterans Home to assist veterans in getting to the polling place located in the home.”
 
Weichel raised concerns about district levy supporters and students possibly influencing how some veterans voted.
 
By more than a 4-to-1 margin, individuals voting at the veterans home approved the Perkins Schools levy. This was the largest margin of victory throughout the district’s 16 voting precincts.
 
But consider this: Only 27 veterans submitted a ballot at the Ohio Veterans Home, and more than 4,600 people participated in this election. In May, 30 people cast a vote at the home for a similar school levy, with an almost identical outcome.
 
In the end, voters collectively rejected both the May and August issues aimed to generate new funds for operations through property taxes.
 
To Weichel, however, a small turnout doesn’t discredit large, lingering concerns supposedly occurring on Election Day.
 
“I feel the Perkins students and their coach assisting veterans to the polls corrupts the political process and violates the law since their veiled political activity is taking place well within 100 feet of the polling place and could happen mere feet away form the voting area,” Weichel wrote. “The blatant actions of the levy supporters are disgusting and disrespectful to the veterans who have served our country.”
 
Elections board officials read Weichel’s letter at a public meeting Wednesday morning.
 
The four members came to a consensus: Even though nobody violated any election laws, what allegedly occurred at the Ohio Veterans Home could be considered immoral and unethical.
Board members referenced students and other levy supports ushering, escorting and even pushing wheelchairs from a designated unit to the polling location.
 
“You have one side that has access to private residents who might be vulnerable,” board member Chris Marinko said. “You have a person suffering from Alzheimer’s and someone else on the other side persuading and driving that voter to do something.”
 
Said board member Kevin Zeiher: “I want to see the residents given every opportunity to vote. But it’s not a good thing that these people don’t know what’s going on or maybe don’t want to vote for or against the issue.”
 
Jason Bennett, chair of the newly formed Perkins Schools levy committee, said any accusations about recruiting Alzheimer’s patients are ill-founded.
 
A group of 15 or so volunteers, including students and community members, did escort Ohio Veterans Home residents to the polls, but only if a volunteer coordinator from the home designated them as interested voters, Bennett said. The group took the veterans to the hallway in front of the polling place and didn’t go inside.
 
“We were given a map with the locked Alzheimer’s areas marked off and they told us ‘those are areas you can’t go into,’” Bennett said. “I didn’t participate in, see or hear anyone trying to coerce any residents to vote for or against the levy or even to go vote.”
 
Bennett, a long-time Ohio Veterans Home volunteer who works at a Toledo-area nursing home, said some patients the group assisted may have had health conditions. The home’s employees could not provide volunteers with medical information, however, because of privacy concerns.
 
“I’ve never been criticized for volunteering before,” Bennett said. “It’s sad. It seems with this election, there is a certain segment of the population that thinks everything is underhanded and sneaky.”
 
Perkins Schools officials are proposing a 10-year, 6.73-mill levy for the November ballot — identical to the issue voters rejected earlier this month.
 
“The Ohio Veterans Home will be telling us what their policy us,” elections board director Jen Ferback said. “We will do whatever the home wants us to do for the November election and any other election.”
 
Among the possibilities that could occur, according to Ferback: Veterans home administrators could prohibit anyone who doesn’t live in the facility, or who is not a family member, from attending the polling location on Election Day.
 
Pick up the Register this week for more stories on Perkins Schools, including fundraising and private donors offsetting pay-to-play costs.

Comments

John Harville

Now I'll disappear again into the confines of Overmyer County.

Erie Countian

Perkins students should NOT have been taking the veterans to vote. Even if they didn't break any rules, it simply looks shady and is more fodder for the "conspiracy theorists" in our community. I see nothing wrong with students visiting or volunteering at OVH at any OTHER time, but NOT on the day of a school levy vote! OVH employees are capable of escorting veterans to the polls. Also, I just read the latest school "report cards" that were released today by the state. Congrats to Huron, Edison and Margaretta, who all came out on top above Perkins. Only Sandusky did worse! I think it's time to re-focus on what's really important at Perkins, and that is educating our kids and getting better results in what matters! Obviously Gunner and the Board are so focused on open enrollment, getting new buildings, a new stadium, laptops and other ideas that have not made any improvement in the district's educational standing. We seem to be going downhill a little more each year. Can anyone from the Board or Administration explain why we are getting worse instead of better under Gunner's tenure?

underthebridge

I read the results too and they are very troubling. The big and costly educational experiment orchestrated by Gunner is being revealed as inadequate at best.

gramafun

I, too, read that report. While it was not wise for these kids and their "leaders" to assist these veterans to the polls that day, it isn't that big a deal. What is a big deal is where the kids placed in that report. You have bigger fish to fry at Perkins. Gunner and company better start focusing on student education and less on bells and whistles for your schools. Without an outstanding education behind them, a nice school building and a nice stadium means nothing. Better start worrying about your teachers and their abilities to get their points across than what type of atmosphere the building provides.

2cents

P-CORN : )

Bherrle

I have the utmost respect for our veterans, who no one should ever take advantage of. My father was a Marine in Vietnam, machine gunner on a Huey, which was shot down in combat. He survived, but the emotional scars (plus some loss of hearing) exist to this day.

The standard of proof, or should I say the lack thereof, that exists in this community amazes me. So many people, so eager to accuse, with very little to no actual proof. I have nothing against Mr. Weichel personally, don't know him. He is entitled to his opinion, whether I agree with it or not. However, his letter offered proof of nothing, merely conjecture and hearsay.

Someone above asked for "candor" from Jason Bennett. Candor for what? When all the groups were doing at the home was to assist the vets who wanted to vote, who were identified by OVH officials, get to the poll location at the OVH - what else is there to say???

So the Board of Elections decides to investigate based on a letter with no proof. Well Board of Elections, you better also start investigating the person who decided to open election day with the rule that no Perkins apparel whatsoever was allowed by voters. This was a clear violation of voters rights.

Your going to "investigate" students based on conjecture and hearsay? Then you better investigate your own staff of adults, based on the fact voters rights were violated.

fifteenthgreen

Bherrle, the facts were given to the Board of Elections and the proper authorities. This isn't based solely on one letter. You've been a part of this discussion before and saw a few of the facts presented. Now is not the time to pretend that you didn't know! You yourself, said it wasn't right and the kids probably shouldn't have been there.

Bherrle

15th,

I never said it wasn't right. I said that in hindsight, the kids probably shouldn't have there, because it is too easy for someone to say something shady was going on. Too many people in this community like to accuse first, ala "ready, shoot, aim!"

fifteenthgreen

Agree. Not worth being put under the microscope using students. It is worth doing so those folks are given an opportunity to vote. Hopefully we have all learned something from this.

Gardenman

I agree with your comments on veterans. So many have given their lives or been injured in such a manner they will never be completely healed for the rest of their lives. Those of us who are living with all our limbs and without mental issues are indebted to those who have fought to give us the freedoms we enjoy everyday. You father's service is appreciated and honored.

lifetimeresident

I'm hopeing your a NO voter. If not please quit babbleing because your turning us yes voters to NO. If that is what you want continue.

fifteenthgreen

Did Perkins students and coaches volunteer these same services to our Vets at the last Presidential election? No!

CAST THE FIRST STONE

Pathetic says it all

Bherrle

I agree Cast. Investigating students is pathetic.

fifteenthgreen

Investigating desperate parents and coaches trying to persuade our youth into doing something that even the kids felt was wrong and without merit is an appropriate response.

CAST THE FIRST STONE

not investigating students..they dont even understand what the complete story of passing a levy. They listen to people like you that give the simple answer of its for the kids. Not for the kids . it is all for you adults and you use them. 1/2 of them will someday know they made a mistake

VOTENO

NO in NOvember!

underthebridge

Bherrie - So the bi-partisan Board of Elections is in on it too and even they unfairly are against Perkins?

Bherrle

No, that is not the point I am trying to make. Have to go for now, will respond more later.

VOTENO

Bherrle... nevermind. It will get deleted.

Bherrle

What Vote No - Is the opposition side the only side that is allowed to make accusations and point out wrong doing?

fifteenthgreen

Many of the varsity girls basketball team and parents have spoken.

Bherrle

Then they should 15th, why haven't they already?? What is it that they are stating?

If something wrong was done, then it needs to be flushed out.

fifteenthgreen

It is! Those girls did not want to be there and stated as such.

Bherrle

Bridge,

I am questioning their judgement. They choose to launch an investigation based on one letter that offered proof of nothing. If that is the case, then there should already be an investigation opened on the apparel issue. No letter needed. Someone (or more than one person) who works for them made that decision. Investigate that and tell us who it was, and why did they make that decision? That was a clear violation of voters rights.

I'm not suggesting that board as a whole is against Perkins, but I do feel that it is trying to cover it's rear-end right now by trying to show it is doing something. Political party becomes much less relevant in terms of partisanship when dealing with local issues, however.

Perhaps they are trying to distract from the other issue, I don't know.

underthebridge

I think the article is not very clear. The Board of Elections members do distinctly comment that nothing illegal happened, but the conduct could be considered immoral or unethical. Is an official investigation commencing? Or since nothing illegal is alleged to have occurred is this the end of it.

I actually give Mr. Welchel a lot of credit. He is concerned about something that is clearly important to him on a personal and political level. He is well within his rights to pen the letter expressing his concerns. Once the Board of Elections receives the letter, it seems to me there is an obligation to either dismiss its allegations completely or conduct an investigation.

My concern is not that the escorting happened, but that these residents (who fought to protect our rights to vote) are vulnerable both socially and cognitively.

I'm a pretty independently thinking person. If someone standing in line next to me had their Pirate gear on, it would not have influenced my vote, but the law is very specific about apparel and candidates at polling glaces.

lovingmysoccerm...

Wow! You NO voters sure know how to spend a LOT of time on a blog! I am thankful for a job and family that does not allow me that much time! What occupation allows this? Just wondering! Time to get off the computer and back to what is important! Raising amazing kids in an amazing school district!
VOTE YES!!!!!

VOTENO

It's great to be retired. VOTE NO IN NOVEMBER!

lovingmysoccerm...

oops! you caught me before i logged off! You should try volunteering to keep you busy! meals on wheels, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Humane Society!

goodtime1212

Well lovingmysoccerm, I worked 50 hours this week mowed the grass cooked dinner and still am voting NO.

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