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Summit elections board won't conduct benefits audit

By admin Published: March 2, 2011

Stephanie Warsmith
Beacon Journal staff writer

The Summit County elections board decided Tuesday not to proceed with a benefits eligibility audit after a judge ruled that an elections board member is married.

The board discussed the possibility of an audit last week in light of concern about whether Democratic board member Wayne Jones improperly received medical coverage for his common-law wife.

Jones, who also chairs the county Democratic Party, claimed in his divorce that he wasn't married to his common-law wife, which was in conflict with information he had provided the county in late 2009 to receive medical coverage for her.

A judge ruled last week that the Joneses are married.

Her decision ended a potential investigation by Summit County into whether Jones had received improper health benefits.

Republican elections board members questioned Tuesday whether Jones, through his conflicting statements on his marital status — and the publicity that came with it — may have violated the secretary of state's ethics policy. The policy prohibits board members and employees from actions that create the ''appearance of impropriety.''

Ray Weber, one of the Republican board members, said Jones' actions ''demonstrate behavior that casts the board in a bad light and undermines the confidence that people have in the electoral system.''

''This is an embarrassment to the board,'' he said.

Tim Gorbach, the other Democratic board member besides Jones, said Jones' actions had nothing to do with his elections board position. He said the Republicans sound like they are trying to build a case to get Jones kicked off the elections board. If this is their intention, he said, they should put together a file and send it to Secretary of State Jon Husted.

''I think we need to move on,'' he said. ''We're here to run the board of elections.''

Weber said they aren't trying to get Jones thrown off the board but are concerned about how his actions reflect on the board. He said he will bring the issue back up if there are any new developments.

Jones, as he did during the last meeting, said nothing during the board's discussion.

Neither Jones, nor Kathryn Belfance, his attorney, returned messages Tuesday seeking comment.


Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or swarsmith@thebeaconjournal.com.

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