Soapbox

Sacramento County elections office needs overhaul

Then-Sacramento County election managers Brad Buyse, right, and Roberta Kanelos inspect mail ballot envelopes from the November 2012 election. Buyse retired in January after being reassigned by Registrar of Voters Jill LaVine.
Then-Sacramento County election managers Brad Buyse, right, and Roberta Kanelos inspect mail ballot envelopes from the November 2012 election. Buyse retired in January after being reassigned by Registrar of Voters Jill LaVine. Sacramento Bee file

As a former employee of Sacramento County for 30 years – including 20 in the elections office and the last 12 as its campaign services manager – I am indeed concerned about a conflict of interest in the selection of who will review the elections office.

I left the elections office in January after a respectful career because I no longer agreed with the vision of Registrar of Voters Jill LaVine and the direction she and Assistant Registrar Alice Jarboe were leading the voter registration and elections office. What started out as a great office with exceptional service and outstanding morale slowly eroded over the last few years to one riddled with dysfunction, lack of trust in management and a lack of support from LaVine.

When county executives, led by Paul Lake and Brad Hudson, announced that the Election Center was the chosen vendor, it again brought up concerns not just from me, but from others about the huge potential for a biased audit and a blatant conflict of interest.

While working in the elections office, I traveled with LaVine and Jarboe to Election Center conferences around the country, where they spoke at panels and sat on boards and received cash reimbursements. This close contact is clearly a conflict of interest for this audit of the elections office.

The Election Center and its conferences and workshops helped my fellow employees and me in our careers. But it is not the vendor that would be the best to conduct this review. In my mind, there is no way that former Registrar of Voters Ernie Hawkins, who is to lead the review team, would acknowledge to the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors at the conclusion of this audit that his recommendation to promote LaVine to registrar was incorrect.

Sacramento County voters deserve an elections office that is transparent in every regard. Sadly, these last few years it has become clouded with mistrust, misdirection and misunderstandings from the top down. The Board of Supervisors needs to be heard. It’s time for a change.

Brad Buyse retired in January from Sacramento County’s elections office.

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