Some supes voice second thoughts on voucher change

HUDSON — Earlier this month the County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to change a procedure used to pay part-time election workers. The motion, proposed by Leo Pulcher (R-Stockport), chairman of the board’s Government Committee, changed the requirement that pay vouchers for the part-time workers be signed by commissioners from both major parties; now the vouchers require only one signature.

“None of us were too happy, especially in the Democrat Caucus, that it was pulled over like this,” said Ray Staats (D), supervisor of Clermont.

He said resolution that came from the floor at the last minute. “No one had time to investigate, or to find out that Virginia Martin was completely against it.”

The county has two election commissioners, one from each of the two major parties, appointed by the Board of Supervisors. Ms. Martin is the Democratic Party commissioner, Jason Nastke is the Republican.

Ms. Martin was unable to attend the Board of Supervisors’ November 10 meeting where the resolution was introduced and adopted. Commissioner Nastke promoted the resolution without her knowledge.

Mr. Pulcher said this week that the resolution was introduced because workers had not yet been paid for the primary elections in September. He said the change would help expedite payments and represent a return to a practice used in the past.

“This is paying people, not handling a ballot,” said Mr. Pulcher. “This is to pay people who have already done their job.”

He also said that County Attorney Robert Fitzsimmons had reviewed the measure and did not feel it was necessary to have two signatures. “Jason Nastke asked for it,” Mr. Pulcher said.

In this post-election period the Board of Elections is conducting a hand count of all ballots to check the reliability of the new optical scan voting machines in use for the first time this fall. The count is a major undertaking, and earlier this fall Mr. Nastke estimated it might take around two weeks to complete. Mr. Pulcher believes that might have interfered with the speedy processing of pay vouchers.

Passage of this resolution comes 11 months after Ms. Martin and Hudson Democratic Party Chair Victor Mendolia announced that they had found irregularities in payments to election workers that included disparities between workers for the two parties with identical job descriptions. They also found changes in amounts and obvious attempts to block out original figures.

The irregularities go back to 2008. Ms. Martin and Mr. Mendolia found the documents in the wake of the departure of Democratic Deputy Election Commissioner Geeta Cheddie, now a Hudson Alderwoman. Up until that time, deputy election commissioners had routinely signed pay vouchers using the name of the commissioner from their party.

The practice of having two commissioners sign vouchers went into effect last summer, according to Ms. Martin. “It’s the taxpayers’ money, they have a right to know and be confident that we are spending it only when necessary. It’s important we make sure people are paid what is fair and that county tax payers don’t pay a penny more than is necessary,” Ms. Martin said in a statement issued earlier this year.

“The pattern of behavior indicates a personal and political agenda which taints the fairness of elections,” said Mr. Mendolia.

The Democrats don’t see the vote authorizing one commissioner to validate a voucher as the final word on this issue. “We’re going to ask that it be amended back to two signatures, back to needing the approval of two commissioners. I hope that they will change this and put it back the way it was,” said Mr. Staats.

Mr. Nastke could not be reached for comment.

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