BOARD OF REGISTRATIONS AND ELECTIONS, HANCOCK COUNTY: FEBRUARY 11TH, 2016 MEETING

In attendance:

Kathy Ransom (Chair)
Jim Youmans (Vice Chair & Secretary)
Nancy Stephens (Member)
Linda Clayton (Member)
Robert Ingram (Member)
…..
Tiffany Medlock (Elections Supervisor)

Pre-regular meeting work session:

Laptop given to the board by Don Bevill

Vice Chair Youmans, for board of elections business, had been using a laptop given to the board by Don Bevill (who, with others, initiated the voter challenges of 2015). Vice Chair Youmans and the rest of the board believed the laptop was a gift. Bevill now wants the laptop back.

Member Ingram asks what kinds of materials were stored on the laptop. Vice Chair Youmans responds: meeting notes, audio files and minutes. Continues to say that all information ever contained on that laptop was public information (subject to open records requests) that could have been requested by any citizen at any time. Vice Chair Youmans was in possession of the laptop at all times while it was loaned to the board and never downloaded voter files.

Member Ingram is concerned that Bevill would have access to files (specifically related to voter information) that may not have been effectively wiped from the laptop, if it were returned to him today. Vice Chair Youmans assures Member Ingram that he wiped it “three times.” Member Ingram would like for an independent agency to inspect the laptop and confirm that it is, in fact, wiped clean of all board of elections-related information.

Continuation of bylaws discussion from last month’s meeting

Last month, Member Stephens raised a concern to the board that, as the bylaws are currently written, it may not be clear that the three board members not holding Chair or Vice Chair positions can call a meeting without Chair or Vice Chair attendance or approval. During the last meeting, Chair Ransom assured Member Stephens that the Vice Chair or the Chair would come (out of respect) to any meeting called by the other three board members.

Member Stephens is still concerned that this section of the bylaws is unclear.

Suggestion by Vice Chair Youmans that “quorum” is redefined to clarify that “majority” means “majority of the members of the board.” Vice Chair Youmans notes: “a majority of five is three.”

Regular Meeting:

Member Ingram moves to add to the agenda, under “Unfinished Business,” a continuation of last month’s discussion on purchasing a laptop for the board Secretary. Also moves to add to the agenda a continuation of the discussion begun during the work session on the topic of whether the laptop loaned to the board by Bevill was properly wiped of data.

Unanimously approved.

Approval of Minutes of Previous Meetings

Member Ingram notes that the laptop given to the board by Bevill should never have been accepted and used by the board, especially given that Bevill is married to the Hancock Republican Party’s Chair.

Bevill chimes in that this conversation is uncalled for but is asked by the board to keep his comments to himself until the public comment section of the meeting.

Member Ingram notes that he’ll be satisfied when he hears an outside source say that the laptop is clean and that it was never used for anything but regular board business.

Member Ingram also notes that he would have voted differently on whether to accept the laptop from Bevill, had he known at the time that it was coming from him.

The board asks if Member Ingram’s concerns are related to his ability to approve the meeting minutes at hand.

Member Stephens: in our minutes from January 14, 2016, Motion Eleven notes that the laptop purchase was approved unanimously by the board. The minutes don’t in any way discuss the old laptop that *had* been used by then-Secretary Youmans until the new laptop was approved. So, Member Stephens moves that the board approve the meeting minutes (as they shouldn’t be offensive to Member Ingram, relative to his expressed concerns).

All members vote “aye” aside from Member Ingram. The motion carries.

Chair Report

Deputy Registrar and Chair Ransom attended a training at KSU this month.

Elections Supervisor Report

Office is preparing for the March 1st presidential primary. A lot of absentee ballot requests have come in. City of Sparta is also having a special election on March 1st. Board of Education wants to be on the May 24th general primary for the SPLOST.

Unfinished Business
a. Bylaws/Policy and Procedures Combined

Member Stephens expresses that she’d like for Chair Ransom to contact Attorney Grant for final clarification on the quorum discussion (which had begun during last month’s meeting and had continued through today’s work session). Motion that the board seek Attorney Grant’s guidance on this issue.

Discussion postponed until the next meeting.

b. Laptop purchase/wiping
Member Ingram reiterates his concerns about having used Bevill’s laptop for board business.

Vice Chair Youmans: I don’t think that any electronic information off of that computer was any sort of information that was not otherwise available to the public. However, to keep everybody happy, I’ll do whatever I have to do [to prove that the laptop was wiped].

Motion to ask the Justice Department whether this laptop has been illegally used carries.

New Business

a. Poll workers
Elections Supervisor Medlock presents. Member Stephens asks if the board will be running background checks on the poll workers. Vice Chair Youmans notes that county employees have to submit to background screening but that it doesn’t extend to poll workers. Vice Chair Youmans doesn’t see the necessity of background checks on all poll workers. Chair Ransom notes that the background checks are around $15 each.

Vice Chair Youmans: if all county employees are required to have background checks and if you extend that to poll workers (though poll workers are paid on a 1099 and so aren’t bound to the same county policy), we could logically extend the background check requirement to all vendors or consultants hired by the board. Vice Chair Youmans notes that it doesn’t seem feasible to extend this background check policy all the way to its logical conclusion but clarifies that if Elections Supervisor Medlock senses something “hinky” with a potential poll workers, she has the ability to request a background check.

Chair Ransom wants the board to consider whether this is really necessary.

Vice Chair Youmans clarifies that poll worker names should always be presented to the board before hiring, for the board to express concerns if they have any and to preserve that list for public record. Chair Ransom agrees.

Motion to approve the poll worker list presented to the board by Supervisor Medlock and to give her the authority to find other poll workers. Unanimous approval.

b. Budgets and Spending—Board Member Stephens

Member Stephens notes that according to the 2016 post budget that Elections Supervisor Medlock provided, the budget is about 200k. At the end of January, the board had already spent about 20k. Intimates that she disagrees with the absentee ballots being mailed to citizens in January and indicates that she believes that’s what put the board over budget for January. “The board needs to be more involved in what we’re spending, to make sure we don’t go over budget.” This is going to be an expensive year, with elections and the lawsuit.

Member Stephens moves that all spending excluding salaries and normal day-to-day spending be brought to the board for approval.

Vice Chair Youmans seconds the motion “just so the board can talk about it” [presumably, the agenda item].

Elections Supervisor Medlock notes that, regarding her sending out the absentee ballot applications, postage does not come out of the budget. “With all due respect Ms. Stephens, I watch our spending very closely to ensure that we don’t go over. It’s a reflection on me if we go over budget.” I know what money we have in the budget and what we can spend. I need to ask the board what I’m supposed to do–how I’m supposed to conduct the business of the office–if I’m so restricted as to have to come to the board with everything I need. If I’m in the position of Elections Supervisor, I need to be able to do my job. My question is: “if you didn’t want someone to manage the office, why was I hired?”

I didn’t come here to please every member of the board. I don’t want to be questioned every step of the way by the members of my team. We’re expecting outside forces to come at us, because that’s what they do. But, the team members should not be coming at you.

Vice Chair Youmans: “well said, Supervisor Medlock.” We don’t need another motion [like the one suggested by Member Stephens] that is so all-encompassing. Indicates that Member Stephens’ motion is way too broad and restricts Elections Supervisor Medlock far too much. “I have such great faith and confidence here” [in Elections Supervisor Medlock] that I don’t need to question what she does in that way. I have the greatest confidence in her [Elections Supervisor Medlock] that she’s not going to let any fraud or deceit [in elections] get by.

Member Stephens: I have all the confidence in the world in here, too. However, since the board has been in place, we’ve been over budget every year. We’re responsible to the citizens of this county for that overspending. I’m not saying anything about day-to-day spending. I just want to make sure that we are aware of what’s going on.

Vote on Member Stephens’ motion: unanimous “nay” aside from Member Stephens. Motion fails.

Comments from Citizens

Don Bevill: “just in case anybody is suffering under any illusions that there will be any inspection of my computer—there will not be.”

Johnny Thornton: can you tell me how much the budget has increased from 2014-2015 versus 2015-2016?

  • Elections Supervisor Medlock: from 2015 to 2015, there was about a 15k increase, given that we’re in an election year this year. We’ll see a decrease again in 2017, because it won’t be an election year.

Marion Warren: I would like to know the process of using Team Viewer. What’s the guidelines and everything to using that and what’s the critical part of it? Is it a confidential program or confidential software?

  • Vice Chair Youmans: Team Viewer is the world’s leading remote control software. It is readily available and free to download for personal and private use. Businesses don’t pay much per user. As with any remote control software (in fact, Windows allows for remote desktop use—you don’t even need to use a third party window to run someone’s computer, if they give you permission to do it)…
    • Warren: in association with E-net, what’s the association between Team Viewer and E-net?
    • Vice Chair Youmans: if you have access to E-net, all you need is internet access. No reason to use a remote control session on someone else’s computer, if you have access to use E-net.

Maxine Evans: To Ms. Tiffany, I applaud the job that you are doing. And I think that you need to be allowed to do your job, with no pressure from the elections board. I don’t believe that you would go out and purchase anything that wasn’t necessary. I also applaud Mr. Ingram because I was sitting here listening to him describe a private citizen’s laptop having been used for elections business [referring to Bevill’s laptop use for board business]. [In response to Bevill’s public comment:] “If the Justice Department came down here and found some irregularities, he [Bevill] would have to give it [his laptop] up or serve time.”

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