OLD BRIDGE, NJ- Lucille Panos, Middlesex County Republican Chairwoman, has requested Middlesex County Prosecutor, Andrew Carey, determine whether malfeasance was committed by Daniel Frankel, Commissioner of Registration at the Board of Elections when hiring temporary employees to process Vote by Mail (VBM) ballots on Election Day, November 6, 2018.
The Board of Elections is authorized to hire temporary (referred to as “Seasonal”) employees on Election Day to aid in processing VBM ballots.
Equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans are to be employed to assure the processing is conducted fairly. The County established that these “Seasonal” employees shall be paid $15/hour.
 
Through personally observing the processing of VBM ballots on Election Day and a subsequent OPRA request, Panos ascertained malfeasance or misfeasance was committed in that:
(1)   Republican workers were obtained and paid $15/hour in compliance with County policy by requesting the Republican Board members solicit the required number of volunteers to work for $15/hour.
 
(2)   No attempt was made to solicit Democrats to work for $15/hour. Instead, another county official was requested to supply Democrat County employees to work. Since Election Day, November 6, 2018, was a holiday for these employees, they would be reimbursed at 1 ½ times their normal pay rate and subsequently receive a paid day off for working the holiday. Through the OPRA request it was determined all Democrat county employees were reimbursed at hourly rates from a low of $27.88/hour to a high of $86.80/hour in addition to receiving a subsequent paid day off.

 
This was a clear violation of County policy and a misuse use of public monies.
 
(3)   County (Democrat) employees were instructed to report an hour before the Republican “Seasonals” providing them with an extra hour of pay. As all processing is to be done with a Democrat and a Republican working together, it is unknown whether these early reporters did nothing for an hour or were doing processing in violation of this policy.
The county employees cost taxpayers $35,139 while the Republican “Seasonals” cost taxpayers only $3,990.

Attached is the correspondence forwarded to Prosecutor Carey including the OPRA request response.  Also attached is the recent email questions and response from the Board of Elections.
Panos noted in the response to her email request that it was indicated action has already been initiated to again use county employees for processing the VBM ballots received in the upcoming June primary election.
 
Here is the full text of the letter sent by Lucille Pannos, Chair of the MCRO, to Andrew Carey, Middlesex County Prosecutor:
 

Dear Prosecutor Carey:

 

I am the Middlesex County Republican Chair and in performing the responsibilities of my office I visited the Middlesex County Board of Election offices on election day, November 6, 2018 to observe the processing and tabulation of Vote by Mail (VBM) ballots.

While I found many aspects disturbing of how the processing of VBM ballots was performed, there were certain actions performed by the Commissioner of Registration, Daniel Frankel, that I believe constituted malfeasance in office. Consequently, I am hereby requesting your office conduct an investigation to ascertain if charges should be brought in this matter.

To process VBM ballots on Election Day, it is necessary for the Board of Elections to employ many additional temporary or “Seasonal” workers. To assure fairness in the process, the Board seeks to hire equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats to have equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats at each table. As the first step in the process, these temporary employees review the ballots to assure they meet all requirements for validity. Any ballot appearing to be deficient is subsequently referred to the Board members to make a determination by majority vote whether the ballot should be counted or not.

The County has established the pay rate for these workers at $15/hour. 

To acquire Election Day workers on November 6, 2018, Commissioner Frankel requested the two Republican members of the Board of Elections to locate approximately 40 Republicans willing to do this VBM for $15/hour. They did provide a list of such volunteers who would subsequently be referred to as “Seasonal” (temporary) employees.

Mr. Frankel did not make a similar request of the Democrat members of the Board to find Democrats to work for $15/hourly. Instead, Mr. Frankel requested someone (perhaps Gerry Mackenzie, Co-Department Head/Community Services) in the Middlesex County Government to reach out for county employees to work on Election Day for the Board of Elections. In order to possibly have equal numbers of Democrats working, this assured all Democrats working would be county employees since no effort was made to find Democrat “Seasonal employees” to work for $15/hour.

This action, I maintain, constituted the first count of malfeasance in office and discrimination regarding Democrats and Republicans. A second will follow.

It was malfeasance because:

(1): It is the Middlesex County policy that all non-full time workers employed by the Board on election day shall be paid $15/hour.

(2): Mr. Frankel made no attempt to have the Democrat Board members or anyone else find Democrats willing to work for the county specified rate of $15/hour.

(3): County workers that work on a holiday (which Election Day is) must be paid one-half times their regular pay as well as receiving an additional paid holiday for having worked the holiday.

As Mr. Frankel has used this process in the past, he had to know all county employees would be paid for in excess of $15/hour. The lowest paid county employee received $27.88/hour while all other county employees received up to $86.90/hour.

It should be noted all Democrat workers being county employees were paid between the cited $27.88 and $86.90/hour far in excess of the county established rate of $15/hour while all Republicans received $15/hour.

A second act of malfeasance occurred when county employees were advised to report an hour earlier than the Republican workers.

  1. It assured county employees which included 100% of the Democrat workers and a few Republicans would receive at least one hour of pay more than the Republican submitted workers.
  2. As the rule is there must be a Republican and a Democrat working together in each step of the process, one can only assume during this first hour, the early reporters, were either idle or doing processing without Republicans present and participating.

As noted previously, no Democrats were hired as “Seasonals” ($15/hour) while 30 of 39 Republicans were, assuring all Democrats would receive substantially higher pay as well as a paid day off later for working on a holiday.

The average pay for county employees was $481 compared with an average pay of $128 for “Seasonal” employees.

One county employee was paid $847 for working 9.75 hours and a second received $836 pay for working 9.5 hours. The lowest paid county employee was paid $276 for 9.5 hours of work.

By comparison, the highest paid “Seasonal” employee was paid only $266 for working 17.75 hours or $10 less than lowest paid county employee for working almost twice as many hours as that county employee. With the exception of this “Seasonal” employee, and one other who received $232 for 13.5 hours work, all other “Seasonals” were allowed to work 7-8.25 hours and were paid $105-$124 for their services.

While only 2 “Seasonals” were allowed to work more than 8.25 hours, all county employees were paid for working 9.5 or more hours.

It should be noted all temporary employees were given the same assignments i.e., none of the employees receiving the higher pay were given supervisory or more critical tasks to perform. All temporary workers were doing comparable work and had the same responsibilities.

The malfeasance detailed here is based upon observations and information received in response to my OPRA request submitted to the Board of Elections related to VBM ballot processing on November 6, 2018.

However, I have been advised by the Republican Board members that the practice of hiring county workers to process VBM ballots has been the mechanism utilized by Frankel for years resulting in excessive payments each year and the use of primarily, if not exclusively, Democrat county workers.

The Republican Board members only learned of this last year which resulted in their being requested to seek Republican workers for the first time.

Hence, this malfeasance has been on-going for years.

Thus, this malfeasance will be continued in the forthcoming primary.   It should be noted in an email dated May 3, 2019, from Linda Pino,  I was advised: “Gerry MacKenzie, Department Head/Community Services, and her staff have been asked to reach out to county employees to work on Election Day.” “Gerry Mackenzie’s office has been asked to recruit 40 Democrats and the Middlesex County Republican Commissioners have been asked to recruit 40 Republicans.” Mackenzie works in the County Administrators’ Office.

All Democrat workers being county employees will be paid their regular wages all of which exceed $15/hourly.  Again, taxpayer money will be again expended unnecessarily to pay Democrat workers while Republicans will be limited to the $15/hourly mandated by the county.

Attached is the response to my OPRA request regarding  payroll information and Party affiliation for workers, and the response from Board of Election for procedure for the upcoming election.

Your prompt attention to this matter will be appreciated. Please advise me if your office will be responding to the request.

 
Here is the full letter of reply sent to Panos by Linda Pino, Chief Clerk of  the Board of Elections:

 Good Afternoon,

 I have questions regarding the "seasonal" employees:

 ·    Will all employees working that day be “seasonal” making $15.00 per hour?  or

ANSWER: Concerning the non-county employees, all those who are being recruited by the Middlesex County Republican Commissioners were given the opportunity to work on election day at the prescribed hourly rate ($15/hour) for Seasonal workers which they have accepted.

·    Will county employees be recruited, some making 3-4 times more than the $15.00 per hour?

ANSWER: Yes there will be County workers from other departments working on Primary Election Day, June 4, 2019. All County employees (except management and other selected functions) are represented by a Union (AFSCME Council #73). As such there are strict stipulations concerning their pay and overtime rates. The Board of Elections always follows the stipulations of this Union.

·     If County employees are recruited, what is the recruitment process?

ANSWER: Gerry Mackenzie, Department Head/Community Services, and her staff have been asked to reach out to County Employees to work on Election Day. After the Commissioners meeting last night, Thursday 5-2-19, it was determined that there will be 80 people hired. Gerry Mackenzie’s office has been asked to recruit 40 Democrats and the Middlesex County Republican Commissioners have been asked to recruit 40 Republicans.

·     Will ALL people working that day, start at the same time?

ANSWER: As of yesterday, per Commissioner Frankel,  the start time for Mail-in-Ballot Boards is 7:00 am.

·    Will people be allowed to be working at a table counting their own town?  

ANSWER: There is no Statute that prohibits a Mail-in-Ballot Board Member from working on ballots for the Town they live in. The Board of Elections will to the best of our ability ensure that there are at least one Democrat and one Republican Mail-In-Ballot Board Member at each table. 

·    Will any candidates be allowed to work that day?

     ANSWER: The Board of Elections will to the best of our ability ensure that a known Candidate is not working on ballots from their Town. The current policy, which is being reviewed by the Commissioners, regarding challengers for the Mail-In-Ballot process is the same as the policy concerning “Candidates, Elected Officials and Family Members” not working as Poll Workers where they or their family reside.  A known Candidate, Elected Official or Family Member of will not work in the district where they are on the ballot for, an elected official for or Family Member of and they will not handle Mail-In-Ballots from that District on Election Day.

 ·   Will writing implements be used to darken selections, that will allow for distinction of mark made by checker? Understood that counting machines may not accept different colors, but should be able to accept a black or blue marker or be calibrated to be able.

ANSWER: It was decided by the Commissioners at the Board Meeting last night, May 2, 2019, that the “Boards” on Election Day will not fill in any ovals for a Candidate on the ballot that appear to be not completely filled in.

*Chairwoman Panos also included an attachment naming several dozen employees and their varying rates of pay.