Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mayor, City Attorney Apparently Ignored Early Warnings of Incompetency at the Denver Election Commission

VoterJones, this morning, expounds at length on the fact that Mayor Hickenlooper and his City Attorney, Cole Finegan were warned as early as March, 2005, that incompetency reigned supreme at the Denver Election Commission. Yes, of course, the pirouettes the Hickenlooper administration have been engaged in for the past few days are typically misleading; the doublespeak of the Hick's hired hands. But, in its entirety, here's VoterJones latest piece:

The Talented Mr. Rainey

November 11, 2006

Screamingly bad personnel decisions are at the root of Denver's Election Day Debacle. Today's Rocky Mountain News offers a stunning portrait of an incompetent employee who was retained and protected by top officials despite "well-known" concerns about his job performance.

The Commission's "technology expert" Anthony Rainey was in charge of the computer systems that crashed on Election Day, outraging thousands of Denver voters including Mayor Hickenlooper. But Hickenlooper and his staff were well aware of Rainey's incompetence and abetted it with their inaction.

DEC Executive Director John Gaydeski is on record defending Rainey. When I questioned Rainey's qualifications months ago, Gaydeski assured City Council that "Anthony Rainey's background is IT and he is an expert in that field."

More damning, Commissioner Wayne Vaden openly admitted his own jawdropping abdication of managerial responsibility with regard to Rainey. According to the Rocky:

"I was hearing Sara (Harmer). . . walking out saying he doesn't want to talk to me," Vaden recounted. The city clerk said he ordered Rainey: "Yes, the hell you will (work with her), because this is going to be my a-- if everything falls apart."

Vaden said after 15 minutes of "back and forth," he felt he'd gotten assurances that Rainey and the tech specialists would work to solve the problem.

In most workplaces, insubordination results in disciplinary action and, possibly, immediate termination. But not at the City, apparently. Instead of taking charge, Vaden haggled "back and forth" to cajole a subordinate whose behavior was inappropriate by most workplace standards. In the private sector, Rainey would have been shitcanned in a heartbeat.

Also in today's paper, the Rocky editorial board cited problems with switching to an all-mail election. One significant concern is that the Election Commission has no system for verifying voter signatures.

The editorial didn't mention it, but Rainey was in charge of the interminable, costly "signature scanning" project at the DEC to create a signature verification system. As you might guess, there is no system.

So, um, how were election judges verifying voter signatures on tens of thousands of absentee ballots cast in this election? Did the DEC just decide to skip that part of the whole "election integrity" thing?

My impression is that controls and procedures have broken down beyond repair, especially in the DEC's panic to count the remaining ballots. Fox 31 News reported on their website: "In Denver, election officials now estimate there's one-thousand more uncounted [ballots] than originally thought. They say there [are] more ballots in each storage tray than they originally thought."

Truly alarming. "Oops, we weren't really keeping track of the ballots and found some extras." When done correctly, procedure requires that each ballot and the numbers of ballots in batches be tracked every step of the way through the process. Clearly, that's not happening right now.

Below are the two letters cited in the Rocky about Anthony Rainey. They were written by a City Council aide who had worked at the DEC. One was given to Mayor Hickenlooper and one to Chief of Staff Cole Finegan last year.

Everyone in a position of responsibility -- from the mayor to Vaden to Gaydeski -- knew that Rainey was a detriment to the DEC. Yet they put Rainey in charge of technology for the most technology-dependent election in city history.

Whose fault is that?


March 1, 2005

Mayor Hickenlooper,

There is a large management problem at the Denver Election Commission. The management problems led to major cost over runs and errors in the November election. The situation has continued to deteriorate.

Months ago the employees came to me with their grievances. They came to me since they knew me, had worked with me, knew I understood the work of the election commission, and felt that since I had moved to employment with the Denver City Council that I could do something about the situation.

The Council has no power over this independent agency. The Election Commission Executive Director serves at the will of the three Election Commissioners; Sandy Adams - elected, Susan Rogers - elected, and Wayne Vaden - clerk and recorder appointed. I told the employees that the best avenue for having their concerns addressed was through the Election Commissioners.

The employees put their specific concerns in writing, delivered them in person to the Election Commissioners and had the opportunity for a discussion. It has been two weeks since that discussion took place, the employees see no action being taken and have again contacted me. I have attached my own resume' so you could see that I have a thorough working knowledge of the Denver Election Commission on which to evaluate what the employee's are relaying to me. I worked at the Election Commission under the same Executive Director and under the same conditions. I have read through the employee four page list of concerns and know that the concerns can all be further substantiated and are in no way an exaggeration of the working conditions.

As always happens with badly managed agencies, the good employees resign. Recently this small agency lost two long term excellent management level employees who were no longer willing to tolerate the Executive Director. The Executive Director, Karon Hatchett, recruited a personal friend from her church, Anthony Rainey, for employment in the agency. Anthony Rainey has been elevated to a management position through a re-structuring that now has most of the agency directly reporting to him. He manages in much the same way as she does and has personally threatened employees. This has only compounded and exacerbated the problems. Additional long term experienced employees are actively seeking other employment, many of the employees are discussing a "blue flu" until the Executive Director and Anthony Rainey are removed from the Election Commission.

I bring this to your attention because I care very much about the agency and its employees. Denver must continue to conduct elections in a manner that assures public confidence in the accuracy, efficiency, and fairness of the outcomes. Under the current working conditions I believe that is becoming increasingly impossible.


E-mailed on August 1, 2005 at 11:29pm

To: Mr. Cole Finegan - City Attorney

Mr. Finegan,

Councilwoman Johnson told me this evening that Carrie Kellogg, Logistics Director, has now resigned from the election commission.

From my experience at the commission, I believe that there is absolutely NO way the current staff of the election commission can properly administer a November election.

I've attached a resume so you can see that I have a thorough knowledge of this agency. Also, I have copied below the text of a letter I handed to Mayor Hickenlooper 5 months ago. In the Mayor's files should be the 4 page employee grievance document that I attached to that letter. I can forward you a copy if the Mayor's office no longer has the document.

What to do now?

In my opinion the only way to save the November election is to:

1) Hire an Executive Director from the Secretary of States office, a nearby county or someone that has managerial experience and a thorough knowledge of the election process.

2) Hire someone with Absentee Ballot experience.

3) Hire someone with Logistics experience in confirming and setting up polling places.

4) Send the current Executive Director, Karon Hatchett, home as well as her "deputy", Anthony Rainey. This must be done even if the City has to pay their full salaries while they are forced to stay away from the election commission.

There is not a moment to lose.

Yes, the election is not until the first week of November but there are many many deadlines where mailings, early voting, etc. must occur. Unfortunately there is not the time to hire and train.

There are many many problems now occurring with "controls" at the Election Commission. Much of the work that has been done is inaccurate and will have to be re-done, and quickly.

I realize that the City Council, nor the Mayor or his Cabinet has any jurisdiction over this independent agency but somehow someway there must be a way for Denver to administer a fair, honest, accurate, and cost effective election in November.

I am very disappointed that the failure of the Commissioners and the Commission is being reported in the press. If the voters don't have full faith and confidence in the process I believe that to be a disaster.

If there is anything I can do to help in this effort please just let me know.


Anonymous said...

Rosemary Rodriguez went to the Mayor and his staff in 2004 after the election, they had more than adequate warning on this. . .

George said...

The problem, of course, is that the Hickenlooper administration, from day one of his incumbency, has shunned any and all wise counsel from public servants who have "been there, done that." That Rosemary Rodriquez served as Denver's Clerk and Recorder (and member of the Denver Election Commission), necessarily, ipso facto devalued her knowledge, experience and recommendations with the Hickenlooper folks. Only THEY (the Hicks) knew what was best for Denver. Only THEY had the answers. Only THEY had the mandate of the people to clean up those city slugs (long-time city employees)who had more operational, real-life savy and political wherewithal in their little fingers than all the Hicks put together. Yes, absolutley, Rosemary warned the Hick. Problem was/is the Hicks don't listen unless you're within their little circle; unless you're enlightened to their particular, peculiar, know-it-all mentality.