After a recent audit of the Board of Elections requested by the Oneida County Executive, reports reveal there are issues, according to county executive Anthony Picente.
Picente says there were concerns that he felt had to be investigated by a third party to uphold a responsibility to the taxpayers of Oneida County.
He says the next step is to address the issues and put together an effective plan.
"Through my correspondence through the Board of Legislators to the Board of Elections is that a plan be put together to correct the issues raised in the audit, like the issue of independent contractors, time sheets and requirements in terms of signing off and verifications being made outside," explains Picente.
The audit reviewed policies, procedures and transactions of the county's board of elections.
The Board of Elections was unavailable for a comment when contacted by eyewitness news.
Here is what Picente cited several key findings in the report:
The report raises serious concerns about the misclassification of the programmers, custodians and technicians as independent contractors, and indicates that these individuals should properly be classified as employees. Last year, the Election Commissioners met with several members of my staff and were advised that the tasks associated with programmers, custodians and technicians should be performed by part-time employees. The Election Commissioners ignored this advice and instead submitted documentation to enter into independent contractor relationships with individuals to perform these tasks. As emphasized in the reports, this was likely not the proper course of action and may have exposed the County to unnecessary liabilities.
In regards to these "independent contractors", the reports find that during 2010 and during most of 2011, six individuals were paid for work performed, even though there were no approved written contracts setting forth their pay rate, services to be provided and timing of work. Further, payments were made for two polling sites that did not have approved written leases. The County has a well-established contract management procedure, designed to ensure clear and consistent understanding of duties and responsibilities and to provide the necessary liability protections to the County. The complete failure of the Board of Elections to utilize the contract management procedure could have easily resulted in disputes, litigation and possible liability.
Although contracts for these "independent contractors" were finally executed in August of 2011, the Board of Elections then proceeded to pay the individuals more than the contracted-amounts. This indicates either poor management or a blatant disregard of established procedures, or perhaps both.
The report indicates that the auditors discovered two Election Day workers that were paid $175 for working as poll site coordinators for the September 2011 primary election, before the position and rate had been approved by the Board of Legislators. In reading the Accounts Payable Report of October 13, 2010 there were actually twelve individuals who were paid $175 for working as poll site coordinators on that date. Election Law clearly states that the amount to be paid to election coordinators shall be fixed by the County's legislative body, not unilaterally by the Board of Elections. At a Fall 2011 meeting of the Board of Legislators, discussing the rates and position titles, one of your members asked the Election Commissioners if anyone had been paid as a poll site coordinator during the September 2011 election. The Commissioners denied that any such payments had been made. Given the findings in the report, I find the Commissioners' comments on that day to be perplexing.
The reports indicate that the Board of Elections has failed to follow the County's purchasing laws, rules and procedures. These failures included failing to obtain written quotes for purchases and making purchases without even submitting a purchase order. The purchasing laws, rules and procedures are established to provide fair and equal opportunities to all in the expenditure of public funds and to avoid all appearances of impropriety. The failure of the Board of Elections to follow proper purchasing policy is inexplicable, given the fact that the County has a full time Purchasing Department ready and able to assist them with all procurements.