By Barbara Taormina
City councillors have called for a review of the City Clerk’s Office in the wake of last month’s problem-plagued primary election. During the Sept. 4 primary, some residents were forced to wait in line to vote after several polling locations ran out of ballots.
Ward 2 Councillor Paul Condon said he was at the Community Room on Pearl Street when voting slowed to a halt as poll workers waited for more ballots to be delivered from the City Clerk’s Office. “Clearly there was a breakdown in communication,” said Condon. “I waited 35 minutes for ballots and started to see people leave without voting.”
Condon said the ballots were finally delivered by a retired police officer who was bringing a fresh supply of ballots to several polling locations throughout the city. “It was embarrassing,” said Condon. “It was nothing you ever want to see, and it should never happen again.”
And to make sure that it doesn’t, the city has called back retired City Clerk Karen Anderson to help manage the Nov. 4 election. In addition to tapping Anderson to help with the upcoming vote, councillors have scheduled a meeting with the staff of the City Clerk’s Office to better understand what went wrong and what needs to be done to fix it.
The City Clerk’s Office has been struggling with different issues and problems during the past 18 months. Last week, Mayor Gary Christenson wrote a letter to City Council President Debbie DeMaria and Appointments/Personnel Committee Chair Peg Crowe urging the council to review operations in the Clerk’s Office. “I have had concerns about the performance and morale at the City Clerk’s Office for some time,” said Christenson, adding that the ballot shortage and the recent resignation of Carol Ann Desiderio, the assistant registrar of voters, have made a bad situation worse.
“Communication and accountability are real concerns in the department,” said Crowe, who tried to bring in additional support for the City Clerk staff last year when she was City Council president.
Several councillors felt that the problems should be addressed by the Personnel Committee, which is currently reviewing City Clerk Tom Brennan’s reappointment. Brennan, who was scheduled to begin a vacation on Wednesday, did not attend the Tuesday night City Council meeting. But other councillors felt they should first hear from the staff at the City Clerk’s Office to better understand both the recent problems with the primary and the chronic problems in the department.
Councillor-at-Large Craig Spadafora also wanted to see an “action plan” to make sure the Clerk’s Office staff is adequately prepared for next month’s election. “We need a recap of what happened,” said Spadafora. “If the next election goes astray, it’s not their fault, it’s our fault.”