Politics & Government

Top officials at State Board of Elections fired without being told why

From left, Assistant to the Director Matthew Selph, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Executive Director Maryellen Allen at a Tuesday meeting of the Kentucky State Board of Elections in Frankfort.
From left, Assistant to the Director Matthew Selph, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Executive Director Maryellen Allen at a Tuesday meeting of the Kentucky State Board of Elections in Frankfort. ddesrochers@herald-leader.com

The State Board of Elections fired its executive director and assistant to the director on Tuesday.

The board did not explain why Executive Director Maryellen Allen, a Democrat, and Assistant to the Director Matthew Selph, a Republican, were dismissed.

“This was a bipartisan decision of the state board of elections, both non-merit employees, that their services were no longer needed,” said Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who serves as the chairwoman of the board.

When pressed for the reason, Grimes just repeated her earlier statement. “Their services were no longer needed,” she said.

Both Allen and Selph said they were not given a reason they were fired, but Selph said he felt it was because he raised questions about the operation of the board.

Selph said he filed a complaint with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission and that there is an ongoing investigation into his claim. Selph says because of the questions he raised, he’s “known since May that my employment here was month to month.”

The Executive Branch Ethics Commission cannot confirm or deny whether there is an ongoing investigation, according to executive director Kathryn Gabhart.

Several county clerks attended the meeting and shook their heads when Grimes announced that Selph and Allen would be removed from their positions. One member of the State Board of Elections’ staff cried when she heard the news.

Selph, who had served in his role since 2014, said he was flabbergasted that he and Allen were not told why they were fired and that they were not given an opportunity to defend themselves.

“I’m not used to state government things, but apparently you don’t get to defend yourself,” Selph said. “So I’m wondering what the facts and evidence may be.”

Selph also took the blame for Allen’s firing, saying he thought she was dismissed because he had started asking questions. Allen, who had been executive director since 2011, did not comment beyond confirming she was not given a reason for her dismissal.

“She was one of the best bosses I’ve ever had,” Selph said. “The best boss I’ve ever had. And it’s a shame because I think she’s in this position because of me.”

The board, which consists of three Democrats and three Republicans, deliberated over the personnel decision for more than an hour behind closed doors before voting 3-2 in favor of the firing. One Republican member did not attend the meeting.

Mary Sue Helm, the Secretary of State’s director of administration and elections, will serve as a liaison while the board fills the positions.

Daniel Desrochers: 502-875-3793, @drdesrochers, @BGPolitics

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