Will Donald Varian be the white knight to clean up the Summit County Board of Elections?
Last Friday, C-Notes reported that the Summit County GOP was trying to replace Alex Arshinkoff on the Board of Elections with one of his lackeys, Brian Daley
In February, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner decided not to reappoint Arshinkoff to his board seat, one he’s held for almost 30 years, thanks to numerous complaints from board workers that Arshinkoff was a vindictive and divisive boss
But instead of nominating a candidate who would depart from Arshinkoff’s hostile ways, the GOP went with Daley, a staunch Arshinkoff supporter who became famous on the Hudson City Council for bullying other members
Brunner quickly knocked down the nomination. “The Summit County Board of Elections has experienced in the past an environment described as including harassment, intimidation, threats, hostility, retribution and condescension,” she said in a press release. “I cannot in good conscience appoint an individual to the board whose past behavior predicts the fostering of a similar unproductive environment.”
Instead, Brunner appointed Donald Varian. He’s an Akron lawyer who has chaired numerous non-profits, community organizations, and is an active contributor to Republican causes. “I’ve practiced before the Board of Elections many times previously,” he says. “I thought it would be something I could handle and I do know election law. Mostly, I felt it was something I could do to help the community.”
Varian says he was familiar with the hostile atmosphere at the Board – something he intends to change. “I just feel that there was a tenseness when I’d come in,” he says of his previous visits. “I explained to everyone that my goal is to create a good working atmosphere. It’s no different than if you are running a law firm or a business, which I have for over 30 years. You want a good working conditions and happy employees.”
In his first week, Varian fired three full-time board members who had been accused of enabling Arshinkoff’s evildoings. “It was to try and increase the compatibility of the staff,” he says. “I kept the director, because I thought he was doing a good job. We aren’t in same camp. That’s not the issue. The issue is what’s best for the board.”
Varian also promoted Scott Sigel. The Republican worker was demoted by Arshinkoff after questioning sketchy Republican campaign finance reports
. He as now been promoted from ballot room staffer to the director’s assistant. “He has a very good working knowledge of board activities,” Varian says. “He’s someone I thought I could work well with and would work well with the director.”
For the moment, Varian says he has no further plans for cleaning house. He first wants to get to know the staff to see who works and who doesn’t. “I’m too new to do that,” he says. “The goal is to make a better working atmosphere. Last night, I oversaw my first election, and they did a great job. It went very smoothly. I was pleased to see that.”
State senator Kevin Coughlin, who is currently waging to campaign to oust Arshinkoff from his party chair, was extremely pleased by the appointment and says he’s even talked with Varian about the possibility of him taking Arshinkoff’s place as the chair of the Summit County GOP, as well. “He’s Akron’s gentleman’s lawyer,” Coughlin says. “He has the right temperament for leadership. He is the anti-Alex. I cannot think of two more different people in demeanor.”
Of course, not everyone feels the same way. Arshinkoff is challenging Varian’s appointment with the Ohio Supreme Court. He’s also accused the entire Board of Elections and Brunner of conspiring against him, claiming that Democrats are attempting to take over the Summit County Republican Party and appoint who they see fit.
For now, it’s unclear how the rest of the Board of Elections feels about Varian. When C-Notes called, the worker who answered didn’t even know who he was. – Denise Grollmus