September 22, 2014

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Robert Gilchrist’s hearing on voter residency postponed

SHEFFIELD TWP. — Supporters of Lorain Service Director Robert Gilchrist accused the Lorain County Board of Elections on Thursday of targeting Gilchrist for an investigation because he’s black.

Gilchrist

Gilchrist

The accusations came during what was supposed to be a hearing to review where Gilchrist lives and where he can vote in the November election. The hearing was postponed until Monday following a last-minute request from Gilchrist, who wasn’t at the hearing, so his attorney, former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, can be present.

Paul Hill, one of Gilchrist’s supporters, said the elections board looked like a Ku Klux Klan meeting as the board prepared to begin the meeting. The members of the elections board are all white, while Hill is black.

Hill’s comment drew an angry response from former Lorain City Councilman Dennis Flores, who asked whether Hill saw any white hoods in the meeting. Flores, who won the May Democratic primary in his bid to reclaim his seat as the city’s 2nd Ward councilman, is Hispanic.

Hill later said he was upset because he feels Gilchrist is being singled out for investigation because of his race.

“They’re trying to get something on him because he might run for mayor someday,” Hill said.

Denise Caruloff, the Lorain resident who filed the complaint against Gilchrist that led to the investigation, said after the meeting that race had nothing to do with her raising the issue.

“I personally thought it was disgusting that it turned into a racial issue,” she said.

Caruloff has questioned whether Gilchrist, who takes over as head of the Lorain County Community Action Agency next month, actually lived in the city’s 2nd Ward, where he voted in elections in November 2009, May 2010, November 2011 and May 2011.

Gilchrist had lived on Broadway, which is in the 2nd Ward, but bought a home on Fields Avenue in the city’s 8th Ward in August 2009. That is where he now lives.

Gilchrist declined to comment on the suggestion that the complaint against him was racially motivated but said he’s never met Caruloff and doesn’t know what prompted her to raise the issue.

Gilchrist said he never intentionally voted in the wrong place and believes the complaint against him needs to be placed in perspective.

“What’s next? Do they want to see my birth certificate saying I was born in the United States?” Gilchrist said.

Rhoda Lee, also of Lorain, also complained Thursday about how the Gilchrist matter is being handled, saying she wants to see proof that the elections board has handled other complaints about where a person votes.

She said a 2007 complaint from the Lorain chapter of the NAACP that questioned the living arrangements of Paul Biber, who was running for his first term on the Lorain school board at the time, was never addressed.

Biber had lived in Sheffield Lake, but rented an apartment in Lorain so he could run for the school board. According to board minutes from 2007, by the time the NAACP filed its complaint, it was past the deadline to challenge a candidate’s legitimacy.

The issue was supposed to be forwarded to county Prosecutor Dennis Will and Sheriff Phil Stammitti. Will said Thursday he doesn’t recall the issue specifically but doesn’t believe his office ever took any action against Biber.

Biber said he was cleared to run in the election after providing proof that he had moved to Lorain.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.