Elections board move smacks of favoritism

Trumbull County Board of Elections member Ken Kubala should have recused himself in the board’s recent decision to disqualify David Cook, a political candidate who intended to oppose Kubala’s longtime friend and supporter, Dan Polivka, for the Democratic nomination for Trumbull County commissioner.

And Kubala certainly should not have been the board member making the motion to deny Cook’s certification based on a simple question of penmanship surrounding the number of signatures on one of the pages of Cook’s petition.

The issue raises questions of improper influence on the board whose job it is to help ensure political fairness and balance while administering local elections.

Instead, Kubala’s well-known alliance with Polivka, who also serves as the Trumbull County Democratic Party chairman, appears suspiciously like a political favor for the commissioner who had backed Kubala heavily in the 2014 Trumbull County central committee vote to fill the Trumbull County commissioner seat left vacant by the death of Paul Heltzel. Kubala, however, fell short to Mauro Cantalamessa in the bid.

Kubala, who now works as the safety and compliance manager for the Trumbull County Engineer’s Office, made the motion against certifying Cook’s candidacy. That passed 3-1, with Republican board member Ron Knight voting no. Knight also had made an earlier motion calling for the certification of Cook’s candidacy, but it died for lack of second.

The issue in question comes down to penmanship, according to Cook. While there were 21 signatures on one page of Cook’s petition, his handwriting makes it appear that he listed the number of signatures as 20.

Granted, it appears, based on the 3-1 vote, even without Kubala’s involvement, the motion to keep Cook off the ballot still would have passed. However, there would have been no question of favoritism, and who knows whether the two other board members, Republican Kathi Creed or Democrat Mark Alberini, might have changed their minds.

The matter will come before the board again Monday, this time in an appeal filed by Cook. Along with it are two other unrelated election appeals: one involving the candidacy of Democratic candidate for Trumbull County sheriff, Joe O’Grady, who missed a filing deadline, and one by Democratic incumbent Treasurer Sam Lamancusa, who is questioning the board’s wisdom on certifying the candidacy of Syreana Harris, who is running for the Republican nomination to ultimately challenge Lamancusa in the fall election. Harris listed an incorrect start date for the term on the petition.

This time around, Kubala should remove himself from any vote on the matters involving Cook.