Supervisors, election officials clash over payments

Published 4:03 pm Tuesday, December 22, 2020

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When it came time to approve the county’s monthly invoices for payment during the Monday, Dec. 14 meeting, one Charlotte County Board of Supervisor (BOS) faced off with the county’s Electoral Board vice-chairman and interim general registrar.

Supervisor Kay Pierantoni questioned the Electoral Board’s use of CARES funding and the amounts of bonuses paid to board members while she said they overlooked poll workers.

The BOS does not regulate what the Electoral Board or the registrar does as they are governed by state agencies. The approval of the invoices was only to vote on whether the BOS should approve the payments. The motion to do so passed 5 to 2.

In October, the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a nonprofit organization, awarded Charlotte County a $20,000 grant to plan and execute a safe and secure election.

Interim General Registrar Eric Goode said, with the grant, the Electoral Board voted to pay poll workers an additional $50 as hazardous pay. The chief officer of the election received an additional $60.

According to Goode, the Electoral Board also approved a pay increase from $8 per hour to $11 per hour for the chief and $10 per hour for officers working the early voting precinct.

At the end of November, Goode informed the board that he had received notice from the Department of Elections that monies allocated to the registrar through the CARES Act could be used to make hazardous working conditions payments to registrars, registrar office staffs, and board members.

At a Nov. 25 meeting of the Electoral Board, Goode suggested disbursement based on relative exposure by each of the groups included in the notice.

The funds were effective July 1.

Goode suggested he would receive $3,000 based on exposure from July 1 until Nov. 25. His staff would receive $10,300 calculated from their first day of employment until Nov. 25. The former registrar would receive $1,800 for service from July 1 to Aug. 31 and consultations beginning on Oct. 5, amounting to $1,200. Board members would receive $750 each based on the days they were exposed from July 1 to Nov. 25.

“I think that’s outrageous,” Supervisor Pierantoni said. “The poll workers were the ones that were really out there, and you only went up to $10 an hour?”

“First of all, we didn’t even know that this money would be available,” Vice-Chairman of the Electoral Board Lawrence Clark replied, “We only learned about this the day before Thanksgiving. Therefore, we gave the poll workers their money before we even knew about this.”

Pierantoni, who seemed irritated at times, said she was in favor of sending all the extra funds back to the state or dividing it up a whole lot more for the poll workers.

Also, Pierantoni questioned both Goode and Clark on the need to have former registrar Nan Lambert work as a consultant during the November election and why they felt the need to give themselves such big payments.

“You are acting like we are giving out money just any kind of way, and it’s not like that,” Clark said.

Supervisor Butch Shook spoke up to ask, “Do we regulate what they (Electoral Board) do?”

“No”, said Clark. “Then why are we having this conversation?” Shook asked.

The back-and-forth between Pierantoni and Clark continued, often heated at times, with Supervisor Donna Fore being called out of order yelling. “It’s a matter of what’s fair and equal,” Fore said. “It’s a fact that the frontline workers have not been paid what they are due.”

Clark ended the discussion, saying he resented that he was being made out to seem like he was taking something and doing something wrong.