Election Board Ousts Director
October 26th, 2010
After 22 years at the Board of Elections and only two months as executive director, George Gonzalez lost his job this afternoon. At its regularly scheduled meeting, the board voted six to zero with four abstentions to “terminate” Gonzales only a week before the general election.
The vote came after an hour-long executive session. In announcing the vote, board president Julie Dent did not say who would fill the post although deputy executive director Dawn Sandow delivered a report in Gonzalez’s absence.
Gonzalez has been a lightening rod since the September primary, the first city election using paper ballots and optical scanners instead of the old lever voting machines. Voters complained of delays, being unable to vote at some places and other snafus across the city. Gonzalez came in for heavy criticism as he defended the board’s performance at a City Council meeting earlier this month.
Gonzalez also came under attack for the way he placed the names of candidates in the City Council race to replace the late Thomas White on next week’s ballot. The arrangement of names could prompt some voters to think that one of the Democratic candidates — Ruben Wills — was on a ticket with Republican Carl Paladino, an anathema in the heavily Democratic, largely black and Asian district. The board has reportedly said the ballot will be redesigned and reprinted.
According to David Seifman in the Post, the board had wanted Wills listed in column one with the other Democrats. But Gonzalez left blank space in column one, putting Willis under the GOP. The Post implied that Gonzalez might have been acting at the behest of Stanley Schlein, a prominent election lawyer who represents another candidate in the race, Nicole Paultre-Bell. Gonzalez has “close ties to Gonzalez, leading some critics to claim that Gonzalez made the unauthorized change at Schlein’s request,” Seifman reported.
When asked about the issue on Friday, Gonzalez declined to comment.
After Gonzalez’ removal, the board again addressed the issue of the council race, turning to a letter from Councilmember Peter Vallone asking why the decision was made to leave the space blank and how much it would cost to reprint the ballots.
While board member Juan Carlos Polanco said the board should answer Vallone’s questions, commissioner Michael Ryan said that would not be possible because it would require knowing what Gonzalez was thinking when he made his decision.
Ryan also noted the issue is the subject of a Department of Investigation probe.
Gonzalez was named executive director in August after the post had been vacant for six months. A Bronx Democrat, Gonzalez won the post when Republican Polanco joined the Democrats on the board — which by law is evenly divided between the parties — to support him.
Yesterday’s vote was not along party lines, with Democrats Michael Ryan and Gregory Soumas and Republicans Nancy Mottola-Schacher, J.P. Sipp, Judith Stupp and Frederic Umane voting to fire Gonzalez. Polanco, who has previously sought the job himself, abstained thus time around.By Gail Robinson on October 26, 2010, 4:28 pm
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