FRANKFORT — The state Board of Elections Tuesday voted to employ a new director and assistant director, just one month after terminating their predecessors without publicly providing a reason.
The board voted to employ Jared Smelser-Dearing of Louisville, a Democrat, as director and Jennifer Scutchfield of Lexington, a Republican, as assistant director.
Smelser-Dearing is a legislative aide for Louisville Metro Council. Scutchfield is a member of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and a former Fayette County Attorney.
Democrat George Russell and Republicans Stephen Huffman, Michael Adams and Joshua Branscum voted for the motion to hire the two, while Democrat Ben Chandler abstained and Democrat Don Blevins voted no.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who by virtue of her office chairs the board, did not cast a vote.
“Jared and Jennifer both bring years of valuable experience in government to the state Board of Elections,” Grimes said afterward. “Jared’s background in technology will be a great asset to the Board as Kentucky moves to bring electronic poll books to the Commonwealth in the coming year. And Jennifer’s impressive career in the law will be a tremendous strength as the board implements the many federal and state laws regarding the administration of elections.”
The two will begin their new duties on Dec. 1.
At last month’s meeting, the board dismissed Executive Director, Maryellen Allen, a Democrat, and Assistant Director, Matthew Selph, a Republican, on a split, but bi-partisan vote.
No reason was given for the dismissals and neither was covered by the state’s civil service law.
Selph subsequently told reporters he believes he was fired for raising questions about decisions made by Grimes or her staff in the Office of Secretary of State. He said he believes Allen was terminated because she declined to reprimand or discipline him for raising those questions.
Among the improprieties Selph alleged was the unauthorized access to voter information by Grimes’ staff and the improper downloading of voter information by one of her staff.
He also said he’d registered a complaint with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, which he said is conducting an active investigation. He said he was granted whistleblower status with the filing of a complaint.
Grimes denied Selph’s allegations, saying she acquired voter data in the same manner as any other candidate for office.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort; follow him on Twitter @cnhifrankfort.