Interpreter for Mahoning Co. Board of Elections removed, brought back

Still from TV campaign ad for Mark Hanni

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – A Spanish-speaking interpreter was removed from his position and then brought back after a Youngstown Municipal Court judge candidate’s campaign raised concern about him to the Mahoning County Board of Elections.

As early voting continued Friday at the board of elections, those from the Hispanic community protested Enrique Suarez’s removal.

“We feel it’s an injustice to the Hispanic community because Enrique is tremendous employee. He’s well-liked by everybody but because somebody filed a complaint, they have decided to transfer him,” Hector Colon said.

That complaint was filed by Jaladah Aslam, campaign manager for Carla Baldwin, who is running against Mark Hanni for Youngstown Municipal Judge. Aslam was concerned about a TV ad in which Suarez endorses Hanni.

Aslam said it was never her intention to have Suarez removed, just to make sure he wasn’t part of the counting process on Election Night.

Her complaint went to Board of Elections Director Joyce Kale-Pesta. Part of it requested that Suarez “not be involved in gathering, tallying, or verifying votes in the Youngstown jurisdiction on Election Night, before and any tallies thereafter.”

“We absolutely never had any problem and nor did we ever say, ‘Please remove him from being an interpreter.'”

Kale-Pesta thought Aslam wanted Suarez removed as an interpreter so that’s what she did — only to reinstate him on Friday.

“I do need an interpreter. I had people here today I could not service because of the situation so I probably will put Mr. Suarez back for the next two days,” she said.

The next two days are the last for early voting in Ohio and are traditionally busy.

As far as Suarez appearing in a TV ad while working at the board of elections, Kale-Pesta said what he does in his private time is not her concern.

“What they do here, when you walk in the door, you leave your politics at the door.”

“I think the members of the Hispanic community value his service,” Aslam said. “We appreciate everything he does. I know him, I know his work, and so we have no problem with that.”

Aslam said the concern is when they count the votes on Election Night. Suarez will not be at the board of elections but in Campbell, interpreting for Spanish-speaking voters.