County board: We will 'make sure the processes were followed' in Ulrich hiring

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

The York County Commissioners on Wednesday didn't directly address the county Republican Party's call for the firing of the newly hired director of elections and voter registration.

York County Commissioner Julie Wheeler told reporters Wednesday that the commissioners have heard comments and questions from the public and will be looking into them.

"We're looking at all the data, we're going to make sure the processes were followed, but we're not going to make a knee-jerk reaction," she said. "We're going to do our homework, and then the commissioners will decide how to proceed."

Steve Ulrich, the former administrator of an NCAA Division III athletic conference and spokesman for two Ivy League athletic departments, started as elections director Friday, Jan. 10.

The York County Republican Committee almost immediately called for Ulrich to be sacked.

County Commissioner Ron Smith also declined comment on the matter Wednesday, saying it's a confidential personnel matter. When Smith was called seeking further comment Wednesday afternoon, the call was instead forwarded to county spokesman Mark Walters.

Walters then said the commissioners would not be commenting further because it's a personnel issue.

On Tuesday, Doug Hoke, the only Democrat on the county board, also refused to comment.

Wheeler's comments about the controversy came on the same day the commissioners approved the purchase of 65 new ballot scanning machines from Dominion Voting Systems, as well as four additional machines that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A shortage of voting machines has often been cited as one cause of the long lines some voters experienced at the polls during November's chaotic municipal election.

The extra machines will cost $218,270 this year, plus annual licensing and warranty fees of $17,660 beginning in 2021 and continuing for seven years, the commissioners said.

In a news release Monday, the GOP committee lambasted Ulrich's lack of professional elections experience and also claimed that Ulrich's social media posts showed partisan political bias.

Smith and Wheeler are Republicans, but they are not members of the York County GOP committee.

The GOP news release included screen shots from Ulrich's Facebook page that were critical of President Donald Trump and supportive of Democratic policies and candidates.

Former Commissioner Chris Reilly has said that Wheeler, Smith and the county's ad-hoc elections committee were present with the previous board when the decision was made to hire Ulrich and that no objections were raised.

York County Commissioner Julie Wheeler recites the oath of office with her husband Michael while being sworn in for her first term during a ceremony at the York County Administrative Center Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. The York County Commissioners took the oath of office, along with York County Treasurer Barbara Bair. Bill Kalina photo

Another Republican politician had questions about the elections director position at the York County Commissioners' meeting Wednesday.

Matthew Mann, a former Republican candidate for York County commissioner and the mayor of East Prospect, told the board during public comment that he applied for the elections director position but never received any consideration from the county.

"I was never called for an interview. It felt like I was completely ignored," he said. "I stressed in my letter my 20 years' experience in dealing with election laws."

Mann said he checked the county website for the job posting every week after the position became available in early November and that the job posting only appeared for about one week around Thanksgiving.

Wheeler said the commissioners don't engage in question-and-answer or debates during public comment but thanked Mann for his statement and said the board would look into his concerns.