ELYRIA — Lorain County Commissioner Tom Williams said he felt like he was back in junior high school on Monday after his fellow commissioners refused to name him president of the Board of Commissioners for the second year in a row.
“It’s childish,” Williams said.
Commissioner Lori Kokoski, who nominated Commissioner Ted Kalo to serve a second year as board president, said she didn’t believe Williams had earned the right to lead the board. She said Williams doesn’t communicate well with her or Kalo and has repeatedly blindsided them by bringing up issues at meetings without informing them beforehand.
She also said that Williams had stopped being her friend on Facebook.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get the position, but that shocked the hell out of me,” Williams said after the meeting. “I never thought at a government meeting someone would get upset about Facebook.”
Williams said he dropped Kokoski as a Facebook friend in December 2012 after family members of other Democrats began making personal attacks against him on the social media site. Williams declined to publicly identify who had made those comments on his Facebook page.
Kokoski said she doesn’t know anything about attacks on Williams, but she said that he has done a lot to undermine his fellow commissioners in recent years, including turning a dispute over Lorain raising sewer rates in Amherst Township into a political issue. Both Kalo and Kokoski are Democrats, while Williams, who is seeking re-election this year, is a Republican.
“I don’t think he did anything to earn it,” Kokoski said. “He always tries to make us look bad. There’s no camaraderie. It’s always him against us.”
She also pointed to a comment Williams once made about only trusting one person in county government — his former administrative assistant, Neil Lynch — as a reason why he shouldn’t lead the board.
“That’s like paranoia,” she said. “He doesn’t trust people in county government. He thinks everything’s a big conspiracy.”
Up until last year, the commissioners had traditionally rotated the position of president and vice president each year. But when Williams was due to become president in 2013, Kokoski instead nominated Kalo to serve as president, bypassing Williams.
At the time, Kokoski, who was re-elected vice president of the board Monday, acknowledged that she wanted to punish Williams for the divisions she believed he created on the board.
Kokoski said Monday Kalo has done a good job of serving as president, a post that carries with it membership on several boards, including the Lorain County Solid Waste Management District Policy Committee and the county’s Data Processing Board.
Williams said he would have liked the chance to serve on some of those boards, particularly the Data Processing Board. In recent years, he has unsuccessfully pushed to create a county-wide information technology department.
Kalo said he didn’t see anything all that controversial in Williams being passed over as board president.
“It’s no different than any other political setting,” he said. “The majority sets the leadership.”
Williams also cast blame for being denied the board presidency on Lorain County Democratic Party Chairman Anthony Giardini.
“I understand you take your orders from Giardini,” Williams said to Kalo and Kokoski during the meeting. Both denied the accusation.
Giardini, who wasn’t at the meeting, said he had nothing to do with who the commissioners named president.
“I have never talked to Ted or Lori about Tom Williams serving as anything on the commission,” he said. “Tom Williams doesn’t even believe what he said. He said it only because he thinks it will score some points with certain voters to have a bad guy.”