The state Board of Elections testified in front of the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption in what will go down in one of the most lopsided contests in New York State governmental hearings.
The BOE showed up, testimony in hand, claiming they had both done a good job enforcing campaign finance laws and were underfinanced and understaffed. They came ready to play checkers. The commission, reeling from leaks and criticism from the press, came prepared with data obtained from subpoenas. They had come looking to play chess.
Moreland co-chair and Nassau County district attorney Kathleen Rice quickly disputed the BOE's insistance that the 2008 fiscal crisis prevented them from hiring new staffers.
Rice: "Mr. McCann is laying out this impossible Herculean effort that the BOE makes, and yet, you had 21 positions to fill and you didn't fill them."
BOE Co-Executive Director Robert Brehm responded: "We worked diligently to fill them. No one anticipated the fiscal crisis that we would be under."
"This was before the fiscal crisis," Rice reminded Brehm.
Things didn't get any better for the BOE as they continued to claim they had diligently enforced election law.
"You had an investigator sitting at his computer, asking you for work — and playing solitaire and studying his Bible verses because you refused to give him work," said Warren County district attorney Kathleen Hogan.
The commission grilled the BOE on individual investigations and openly wondered why some obvious violatioins took so long to process. In one case the BOE claimed they had misplaced a box containing information regarding an investigation. The commission also highlighted emails from BOE members that indicated they were motivated by political affiliation.
Rice informed the audience that the BOE resisted turning over information the commission was looking for. Rice noted that the BOE's counsel was subpoenaed but retired and moved out of state and was not at the hearing.
While Moreland's drubbing of the board certainly played well with good government groups that have been telling the commission how dysfunctional the BOE is since the commission was formed, others saw it as an easy win following a slew of reports that have cast the panel's independence into doubt.
The BOE's written testimony can be read here.
BIll Mahoney of The New York Public Interest Research Group provided this rebuttal: