Tuesday, July 29, 2008

And speaking of search and siezure....

Yesterday up to 200 federal authorities carried out a massive raid of some county officials' offices, including that of Jimmy Dimora, one of 3 Cuyahoga County Commissioners, and Chair of the Cuyahoga Democratic Party - all involving charges of corruption.
News of the lock down, the raids, the search warrants, what they are looking for is of course, being covered in Cleveland mainstream news, one link of which is the Plain Dealer coverage.
The charges to date seem mostly involved with alleged violations having to do with the building trades, possible kickbacks, favors and undue influence for massive county contracts.
Coming into particular question are such recent wheelings & dealings that still amaze me when I see who got what right under noses, and what deals they wrought while we pay the costs to lose more - include the long-strategized, but still relatively recent and bizarre plans for the new Juvenile Justice Center.
(This article, "Tainted," by James Renner of the now, since July 16, former FreeTimes is a MUST READ about the '06 and previous stuff about this really dirty dealing, for really dirty land, (highly toxic,) in the middle of a high crime area, away from public transportation - and onto which, city, county and probably state "officials" found no problem in placing troubled youths and their families who might accompany and visit .... with a deal long in the strategy, (while mold growth and crumbling continued in the current building) - bending again to seeming multi-billion Forest City Enterprises, who sat in the background and pulled the officials' strings, seemingly all out for the pullin'- to make millions in this dirty land deal.
I doubt that the FBI will get around to raiding Forest City....")

It also includes the AmeriTrust building. (When I sat in a few Commissioners' Thursday meetings last year, to witness new deals coming down the pike for the elections board, I was aghast at the blatancy and thier long speeches and seeming good humor around it. The less expensive company, fully qualified for high-rise asbestos removal, losing to the far more expensive company, without the proven expertise, and with business complaints against their work - but good buds of the Commissioners.) Then there is the Medical Mart. ( The "hearings" around it filled with downtown "suits;" the too few Summer weeks last year, that legions of us filled with trying to get the enormous number of signatures, to do what the Commissioners should have done - to put the (now already raised) tax onto the ballot.

But w
hat all that have to do with elections or election justice?
One only has to think, about what has occurred recently in just the election arena, to know that these dramatic raids and seeming step toward justice in the corruption that is Cuyahoga County, while looking like a huge step, and probably lost of nasty stuff that will be found, may be true - the sudden investigation, in current form and curious timing however, is most probably also a highly politically motivated and specifically targeted show: a large smoke screen to cover and help something and someones else more powerful. As bad as it may end up, it will not begin to touch the real and worst source(s) of the county and state corruption - in both parties, and across parties. It never does.

ALL THREE Commissioners are, and have been closely involved and in Cuyahoga elections, as they've each been at least in the know in all the building deals being focussed on in front of us now.
They are the ones who appropriated the eventual more than $20M to Diebold, despite public protestations supported by facts (I know, at end of 2005, I was at their meetings weekly) while publicly positioning how bad Blackwell, and eventually how bad Diebold was - but still never seeming to be able to ask the right questions, or hold their buddies on CCBOE accountable, and just letting it all slide - all while claiming they didn't know, and publicly posturing about other cutbacks just because of elections. It certainly appeared that Mr. Hagan, and Mr. Bennett, and even an editor of the PD, Brent Larkin are all friends (or else have something(s) really big on each other, so they keep each other close and happy.)

They are also the ones who seemingly entertained an apparently requested bid/proposal from ES&S last September, '07 when neither the public, nor apparently other vendors knew about it; and well before any (public) talk even began about Cuyahoga changing systems/buying millions of dollars of new equipment; and at a time, which was after one of their former county administrators, a close buddy, also eventually a former Director of the CCBOE, Tom Hayes, became a registered lobbyist for, and seemingly well-connected with high-ranking state Dems, sales rep for ES&S.
See Was the (CCBOE) ES&S Contract Selection Predetermined?

It was also the Commissioners who hired the same Hayes as Project Manager for about 4 months preceding the '06 November election, for about a total of $60K - $4K/week, so an election could happen - as he babysat and spoke for the approx. $120K/year Director Vu - an arrangement that seemed to accede to the wishes of Bennett who seemingly promised Vu he would not be fired/could resign with money to go ($40K) -as long as they all kept quiet about the events that preceded, and had proceeded from the '04 election.

And it was the Commissioners who ended up "negotiating" with ES&S what ended up to be an approximate new approx. $17M, 5-year contract with ES&S, a highly questionable contract - after the elections board decided to adopt the company, but could not come to contract terms ( though Hart Intercivic was the much more popular competitor even with staff, and the almost $5M less expensive bidder.)

And it was the Commissioners who ended up "negotiating" away promises that ES&S had made, and guaranteed on 6/12/08; and who - though made sure there were "fit for use" clauses and warranties not found in the previous Diebold contract, allowed those terms to be nothing more than more lawyers' and vendor's dreams - seemingly so general, and would take so much in court to prove that ES&S failures were not someone else's- (anyone else's fault and liability - the typical vendor cry) - that in the end, may have left ES&S (and Tom Hayes) still laughing all the way to the bank. ( I don't think the FBI will be raiding Tom Haye's LNE Group, nor ES&S's Omaha offices, either.)

As to one promise the Commissioners gave away from voters and tax coffers - just look at this film from 6/12/08 - with Also Tesi, President of ES&S, at the CCBOE where he promised the county a $1.4M refund if ES&S's new equipment is not ready for the May,'09 election (we're slated to rent 1500 of the 10-year old optical scan equipment, the M-100s, in November, (and buy 15 of the 15-year old central count scanners that stay) then ship back the 1500, to buy 1500 new scanners, DS200's, when they're ready!!)

Once you've watched Tesi's 6/12/08 guarantees, now check out below what the Commissioners "negotiatied" - did for their vendor and party buddies. (The SoS has also been on record as wanting ES&S equipment in Cuyahoga - seemingly to lead the way for the entire state's conversion to them. And if you read her $1.9M EVEREST Report, and her 80 page Executive Summary, you'll find among her "recommendations" that she was already recommending ES&S equipment statewide early last December, but that her wishes have nothing to do with any of the scientific findings which show no better quality, NOR any less potential for inside manipulation of ballot counts - even with paper ballots.)
From page 15 of the ES&S contract, as negotiated/or at least approved by the Commissioners (with PLJ dissenting - which he seemed to be doing more of as he began his re-election campaign); Exhibit A-1, Pricing Summary:
"3. If County leases MIOO's for November 4, 2008 General Election, with the
intention of purchasing new DS200's in 2009, and if the DS200's are not certified by the Election Assistance Commission (if required by Ohio law or the Ohio Secretary of State) and the Ohio Secretary of State by January 1, 2010, then Vendor shall refund the County the sum of $1,425,000 ( highlights, mine) and, in addition, Vendor shall lease to the County, free of charge, up to 1,500 MIOO's for each election occurring in 2009 prior to the date which Vendor is able to provide the County with DS200's that are certified by the Election Assistance Commission (if required by Ohio law or the Ohio Secretary of State) and the Ohio Secretary of State. The foregoing refund of $1,425,000 shall not be due the County, however, in the event the Ohio Secretary of State rules before January 1, 2010 that theDS200's must be certified in accordance with standards and requirements that deviate from the 2002 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines and/or in accordance with any or all of the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines such that the deviation would require recertification by the Election Assistance Commission or the Secretary of State. Equipment must be certified by the Election Assistance Commission (if required by Ohio law or the Ohio Secretary of State) and the Ohio Secretary of State and delivered to the CCBOE Warehouse sixty (60) days prior to any Election.

Given the extra year from their original firm guarantee, it's almost certain that Tesi won't have to write that check back into Cuyahoga coffers... But will he write another check to some others for such a favor? We'll never know. (I'll cover more about the other concessions ES&S seems to expect from the SoS, and much else about this contract the Commissioners "negotiated" in a later post.)

Bottom line, it would be foolish to think that the even the big current FBI raids and drama are separate from the politics, and that the politics are separate from this great show of justice. Bottom line, it would be foolish to think that just one of the Commissioners is involved, or just a few appointees are the ring leaders, and that this whole movement will really get to the bottom of the deals and favors and nepotism that runs this county and this state, along with our elections - including possibly helping to determine who our next county, state and federal "leaders" will be - giving the statement of "as Ohio goes, so goes the nation" a whole new meaning.

Despite all the drama, and nasty and possibly only-portions-of-truth facts that may yet unfold in this huge, and curiously-timed Cuyahoga corruption drama - the largest county of the state of Ohio - it seems we here most probably will remain a ripe wedge of moving the nation toward greater corruption, unless we all stop following the each drama put before us, one after another, and hoping that getting rid of one "leader" will allow room for the hopeful ones to lead us better - while we go away and leave them alone again.

I won't be covering here more on these Cuyahoga raids, and partisan fighting, and bipartisan joining in how to grab more of our power. You can find it elsewhere in the mainstream news.
But please, don't believe that the FBI and lawyers are going to make things all better here or in Columbus; and that it's all one party's fault or the other's. This is a strong signal, and a wake up call, that it's time for all citizens to take just a little responsibility to watch and participate and look out for the best for all of us, and look systemically - not buy into the "get more for me" that plays out in us and before us.
Letting a few alone to make decisions that they then weave stories about for us believe are "for our good" - continuing to just blindly follow, believe and honor anyone in an already tainted system, never has, and never will work. The writers of our Constitution (remember that?) even knew it. It's our system. We must take some responsibility for getting it clean for the whole of us, and maintaining it.

Should Boards of Elections Have (what is in essence) Search and Siezure Powers? Who or what should control that power of the SoS and OH Boards?

Speaking of justice (and lack thereof,) we also have the Secretary of State's recent, curiously timed, July 18, 2008 Advisory 2008-10, reminding and delineating to Ohio Boards of Elections their rights and duties to investigate seemingly whatever they decide are violations of Title IIIV of the Ohio Code, (Ohio Election Law,) including their rights and duties to subpoena people, and even enter their property, take for investigation possessions and even computers - presents yet another rude awakening to possibly how unjust, wound-up, and tied with a bow for handing on a silver platter to incumbents and friends, our supposed election system can be.
If I read this correctly, it seems that such investigations can be undertaken and implemented even without any normally-assumed, citizen-protective, judicial intervention or protocol (except for any legal counsel that a charged citizen, or one not-charged but only thought to have "pertinent information," needs to acquire on one's own.) And the investigations themselves can be kept and reported only between the boards and the SoS.

My first impression upon reading Advisory 08-10 includes:

• Why would anyone hand a board of elections (!) such extreme "quasi-judicial" "rights and duties" with no other normally assumed, protective judicial protocols required? A non-over-sighted, politically and partisanly-driven board of elections !? - sitting there often by political machinations/appointments, at times by SoS (this link just one example,)- with an acknowledged competence level that even had in the SoS June 4 Memorandum (about submitting meeting minutes to the SoS office,) the proviso that if they didn't know how to send an email attachment, they should call the SoS office to be walked through the process? (Does that give you confidence in these people in charge to usually stay all alone determining who wins and loses our electronically determined elections? (even with paper ballots.)
Apparently at some point the OH legislature already did already hand boards of elections those powers.
But then-
• Why would any Secretary of State, especially a former judge, seemingly out of the blue, feel the need to remind those boards of elections of those "rights and duties" without also reminding them of their extreme nature, thus to use them only with greatest judiciousness, and with proper protection of the presumed innocence of citizens/voters/candidates, and in only the most extremely, provable circumstances.
What was this seeming "out of the blue" timing really about? - for it seems in the elections and political arenas, nothing that seems accidental ever is. Is it related to Cliff Arnebeck's, a Columbus attorney's recently lifting of the stay on his '04 election case; said to be an effort to protect the integrity of the 'o8 election, and now citing allegations, and evidence of massive fraud by a number of GOP operatives in '04?
Or is it related to something else?
While there remain so many other important matters to help boards get properly and competently ready for a citizen-successsful, fair election in fast approaching November, and without knowing what incited Advisory 08-10 to appear without even necessary reminders about protections for average citizens against even possibly partisanly driven, and/or possibly trumped up charges to get rid of inquiring activists, or even to let voters know who's really the bosses of their elections, such reminder appears chillingly a move of joint insider control, rather than help toward election justice.
And since the SoS is the only oversight of the boards of elections, which at times appears quite arbitrary according to who and what goes along with her wishes, and sends in no equitable monitoring/feedback mechanism - for instance just believing whatever boards write in their minutes about what they've done or have not. (Attend a CCBOE meeting, then check the minutes and see if you think they are an adequate representation for one who was not there.) And for another small example, see -http://citizensboe.blogspot.com/2008/06/march-audit-part-1.html) about the "audit" of the March election. (There were no written waivers from the SoS about Cuyahoga not following Directive 08-39, (her Audit Directive, with "the force of law";) even confusion on the part of some Cuyahoga staff knowing whether or not the Directive was being followed; and the last film in that post shows that even when the SoS field rep was present, and asked about their not following the Directive, he "had no say" about what Cuyahoga did and did not do.)
The ultimate question has to remain, who does and can truly monitor the Secretary of State's actions for equal citizen and voter protection and equal justice?

ADVISORY NO. 2008-10
July 18,2008
To: All County Boards of Elections Members, Directors and Deputy Directors
Re: Reporting Facts of Investigations under R.C. 3501.11(J); Issuing and Serving Subpoenas

Report of Investigation Facts
Under R.C. 3501.11(J), each county board of elections is vested with the authority and the duty to investigate irregularities, nonperformance of duties, and other violations of Title XXXV of the Ohio Revised Code by election officers and other persons. Last year, Amended Substitute House Bill No. 119 amended this statute to provide a board of elections the option of reporting the facts adduced in an investigation conducted pursuant to R.C. 3501.11(J) to the secretary of state, instead of the county prosecutor.
A county board of elections that chooses to report the facts of its investigation to the secretary of state shall do so in writing. The report should provide a historical summary of the matter and a list of the board's factual findings. The board may attach relevant exhibits or other documents to its report. If a board opts to report facts of its investigation to the secretary of state rather than the county prosecutor, the report and any attachments must be submitted to the secretary of state's director of elections. However, as a general rule, a board is also encouraged to report the facts of an investigation to its county prosecutor
Issuing and Serving Subpoenas
R.C. 3501.11(J) provides that a board of elections shall "administer oaths, issue subpoenas,
summon witnesses, and compel the production of books, papers, records, and other evidence in connection with any such investigation." However, nothing in Ohio's election laws prescribes either the form of the subpoena or a procedure for serving subpoenas.
As ubpoena is more than a mere notice to appear before the board. A subpoena carries with it the weight of aw, commanding the appearance of a person and/or compelling the production of documents. Failure to obey a subpoena carries the potential of criminal sanctions. Therefore, it is important that a subpoena sufficiently identify the person and/or documents to be produced. It is also important that appropriate procedures are followed to ensure the timely delivery of a subpoena \vith adequate notice of the board proceeding.
Absent a statute that expressly provides otherwise, subpoenas issued in connection with noncriminal proceedings are governed generally by the Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure (cited as "Civ. R. 45"). It is, and has been, the position of the secretary of state's office that a subpoena issued by a board of elections acting in its capacity as a quasi-judicial body must satisfy the provisions of Civ. R. 45(A), as follows:
(A) Form; issuance; notice
(1) Every subpoena shall do all of the following:
(a) state the name of the [board of elections, when it is acting in a quasijudicial
capacity] from which it is issued, the title ofthe action, and the case
(b) command each person to whom it is directed, at a time and place specified
in the subpoena, to:
(i) attend and give testimony at a trial, hearing, or deposition;
(ii) produce documents or tangible things at a trial, hearing, or deposition;
(iii) produce and permit inspection and copying of any designated
documents that are in the possession, custody, or control of the person;
(iv) produce and permit inspection and copying, testing, or sampling of any
tangible things that are in the possession, custody, or control of the person;
(v) permit entry upon designated land or other property that is in the
possession or control of the person for the purposes described in Civ. R.
(c) set forth the text of divisions (C) and (D) ofthis rule.
Acommand to produce and permit inspection may be joined with a command to attend and give testimony, or may be issued separately.
Asubpoena may not be used to obtain the attendance of a party or the
production of documents by a party in discovery. Rather, a party's attendance at a deposition may be obtained only by notice under Civ. R. 30, and documents may be obtained from a party in discovery only pursuant to Civ. R. 34.
(2) The clerk [in the case of the board of elections, the director and deputy
director jointly] shall issue a subpoena, signed, but otherwise in blank, to a party requesting it, who shall complete it before service. An attorney who has filed an appearance on behalf of a party in an action may also sign and issue a subpoenaon behalf of the [the board of elections, when it is acting in a quasi-judicial capacity] in which the action is pending.
(3) A party on whose behalf a subpoena is issued under division (A)(l)(b)(ii), (iii), (iv), or (v) of this rule shall serve prompt written notice, including a copy of the subpoena, on all other parties as provided in Civ. R. 5. If the issuing attorney modifies a subpoena issued under division (A)(l)(b)(ii), (iii), (iv), or (v) of this rule in any way, the issuing attorney shall give prompt written notice of themodification, including a copy of the subpoena as modified, to all other parties.
Under Civ. R. 45, your board of elections will need to have a subpoena form available for its own use and for use by attorneys who request them for matters before the board in its quasi-judicial capacity. Your prosecutor may assist in the development of a subpoena form if you do not have one already. It will likely be based on or similar to what your county court of common pleas uses for subpoenas in its own matters. - snipped-
I personally have witnessed the former Cuyahoga board subpoena an activist; threaten to take action against another activist for filing "too many" public information requests with a self-"manufactured" list, when the board staff had answered no requests - for months, but kept requesting repeated requests, so they "could get to them." Also this board for example, talked about subpoenaing voters who were not informed by poll workers that they were in the wrong precinct and were allowed to sign in before getting the information, but not to vote, then after being sent to the correct precinct, signed in again as required, then later being suspected (and with possible subpoena) of trying to vote twice. For the board to glean their information in such investigations, they merely have staff phone the poll workers who seemingly inevitably claim they did everything right. But they, all intelligent lawyers in this case, still seem willing to, oppositely, consider subpoenaing voters and putting them under oath for public testimony in front of the board.
Even as an Observer last March, I was often told that asking what the workers whom I was often barely allowed to see were supposed to be doing/what was it I was supposedly watching (despite Directive 08-29, which said Observers were allowed to watch and closely inspect) - I was told that asking such a question was "impeding an election" - and infraction of Title IIIV.

And if one reads the breadth and sometimes the generality of Title IIIV of the Ohio Revised Code, and even the specifics, especially in just the last Chapter 3599, one realizes that while documentation that shows and alleges the breaking of law in just the proper retention of '04 election data has been ignored by the SoS and "scoffed at" by elections boards; and when one reads Scot Free! (including reading all the interwoven links) - showing that even elections workers who are convicted, of feloniously mishandling '04 ballots, or those may have never even been charged, can all just walk away as if nothing has happened (and possibly have taxpayers pay their massive legal fees!) - but voters, activists, citizens are subject to subpoena by some of this same group of insiders, then you know that the system really chillingly has been turned on its head.

It's time for citizens to go to the OH legislature and see if some just judicial controls can begin to represent us also when it comes to our elections, and thus whom it appears we're supposed to quietly accept, wins the next rights to using our power - mayoral, judicial, and even presidential.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Scot Free? Scot Free. - The 1/07 Felony Conviction, 3/07 Prison Sentence & 11/07 "Probation" Deal for Manipulating the 12/04 Presidential Recount

In what seems a large but still rapidly-growing almost fungal dynamic in Cuyahoga and Ohio politics, with insider deal-making politicians at all levels being left alone to make their deals AND their tightly-woven cover stories to keep us "confident" and "believing" - once again and still, and in both normal and legal senses of the word, "Justice" seems have been been thoroughly pulverized. Sadder and more ironic still is that this time the deals, the stories, and the very blatancy of the abuse of power, reflect the pulverization of Election Justice - one of the few ways, if it were to truly exist, we'd have left to at least be able to "throw the deal-making bums out," or to get them to listen to us. Now it appears that even that is gone.
I write, however, not to make things look even more bleak. But I do hope that these new facts might also shock some readers, (as they continue to hit me with (now brief) shock) - enough to go and watch for yourselves, and say "no!" to such disconnection from the best our humanity has graced us with, and thus from justice, in all forms of the word.
What I also find shocking, and deeply sad, is that even the press either can't or won't follow these threads and tell us what's occurring. And that even when the good guy press knows, they've either sold out, don't have the revenue, or have become so thick skinned that they too just laugh it all off as "just politics," as they run to catch the next event they consider a better benchmark of tragedy, gore, or "government."

Remember the Cuyahoga Recount Trial where the jury convicted two CCBOE mid-level managers of feloniously handling ballots in the legally paid-for and legally-requested local recount of the still often nationally-questioned '04 presidential election between Bush and Kerry; and the judge sentenced them to 18 months in jail? (Also see film here.)
The trial that hit national and international news and struck relief in the hearts of many that maybe justice really did still
live, somewhere in the system that's supposed to be serving us all equally? The trial that could possibly send some message to those who make the many big and small decisions about our election results - thus, about who "wins" and who "loses" & about who will be making the next round of decisions "for us" often behind closed doors where we can't see: that there can be negative consequences for deal-making and other illegal intrusions into our will.
The January '07 trial that evoked excited stirs among
many election integrity activists that "things will be better now," a stir that still often remains resistant-to facts that the whole trial even in the courtroom was continually pulled into the realm of politics, not justice or truth, especially by the defense; and thus, often seemed far more an unspoken political battle and legal show (much like the recount in question) and about skirting the truth or justice, rather than getting to it.
Remember the trial that also evoked sadness and some curiosity among many familiar with the CCBOE in '04 and in '07 - that two mid-level, basically non-decision-making manager-women seemed to be quietly taking rap, and in March '07, were sentenced to prison for 18 months for decisions, that in the normal course of the CCBOE, seemed impossible and very unlikely to be able to be made or carried out by them alone; decisions far more likely and possible (and even with some evidence showing) to have been made, or were at least known about (but not stopped) by decision makers "above" them - member(s) of the board, and/or then Director Vu who often followed the orders of Board Chair Bennett, and/or Vu's Deputy, Gwen Dillingham (also the former sister-in-law of one of the convicted workers.)
No one could quite figure out what they had been promised, or were so afraid of, that would keep them so quiet so long, even while their stories wavered and didn't add up, and the lack of truth seemed so apparent.
Remember the trial that struck fear among many elections and other government workers nationally, that the same fate could befall them for following orders that do not coincide with the law and/or that they would get no good deals if they not follow orders?

Well, it seems that the entire matter, including their jury-drawn felony convictions and 18 month jail sentence in the Ohio Reformatory for Women is virtually over - with no jail time (they were out on appellate bond until their Nov.5, '07 "appellate hearing" - where their "probation deal" was announced.)

And it NOW seems it's BEEN OVER SINCE last Nov. 5, the day before the '07 election, when their "appeals hearing" was held (unbeknownst most, since it did not appear in their case dockets, nor on Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold's online docket) where their pre-set deal was announced.

And what was the November-announced
(just in time to have the election distract us) deal between Kevin Baxter, Special Prosecutor appointed by Cuy. Prosecutor, Bill Mason; Roger Synenberg, former R-elections board member, in part along with Bennett; and Judge Saffold? (Here's a link to another blog, which contains some links to articles about Saffold. With this, I am neither indicating endorsement, nor non-endorsement of the opinions of that entire blog site, but certainly of the blogger's right to speak. The articles linked in this Saffold post, however, certainly represent facts accurately. And another Saffold link. It should be noted from this one, that one set of Baumgartner's charges in her 8-yr. ordeal you'll see in this article, included charges that Kevin Baxter, the Erie County Special Prosecutor assigned to this '04 recount case, and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason who assigned him to it, had a long history of trading cases where it appeared they wanted "to get rid of" the case or the complainant. Those Baumgartner charges which were found online via Google searches in '05 when Baxter was first assigned, seem no longer apparent.)
  • That these women would be put in a special probation program, called "the Diversion Program" - a 6 - 18 month program for first time offenders, who had admitted guilt and remorse, thus signs of rehabilitation; and a program, if completed while "being good" the entire time, would allow each felon's record would be expunged.
And what else was so special about their deal?

Special was:

  • they of course, got the minimum time in the Diversion (probation)Program - 6 months, which had it ending around April 27, '08, - but which hearing Saffold put off (because she said she'd be out of town,) until March 27, 2008.
  • Also Synenberg "asked", and of course was granted, per the deal, that no finding of guilt was to be found.

    What's so special about that is that, per another deal apparently made between Bob Bennett and the womens' lawyers around the time the of the first grand jury indictments in September of '05, where either Bennett or the entire board agreed that when or "if" the indictees were found "innocent," the elections board/ the Commissioners/ and well... let's just say it, bottom line, the taxpayers would also pay all the womens' legal fees!
    For download here - See the letter from the third indictee's lawyer, presented to the CCBOE for payment of his legal fees after that woman was found innocent by the jury in January, presented per those prior arrangements. )
    Now isn't THAT "special!"

    You see, it seems that the 9/05 indictments were nothing more than an attempt at a "bone-throwing" - a "see-justice- (wink, wink) is-being-done - to the many
    activists who volunteered and and paid and were at the December '04 recount; and who knew for certain that the recount ballots had been illegally pre-selected and pre-counted, making the Recount of the also highly questionable '04 election results, also nothing but a fake show.
    Possibly because undeniable incriminating video later showed up from election integrity activist Kathleen Wynne, who's now in Texas; or because there really was a (bi-partisan) political pissing-match-deal "war" going on between the defense and the board, and the prosecutor's office, (as it seemed all through the trial;) or because of other unseen deals, the jury trial ended up ensuing. The jury came up with the felony convictions, and the judge sentenced the women to the max.

    Thus, with the Nov. 5, '07's "no finding of guilt" and looking toward expungement of
    records, immediately after that less than 1-hour deal announcement/"appellate hearing" - Synenberg was pronouncing the women's "innocence" (!-two very different things) to the press - an important concept for him, and to anyone else who may have been footing parts of his bill since before the Sept. '05 indictments - meaning it could all be paid....by the taxpayers.

    His approach to Cuyahoga CCBOE and /or the Commissioners for that money, seemingly remains the main "other shoe to drop" in this deal - if it has not dropped already...

And as they say on late night infomercials...

But that's not all!....

So what ELSE was so very special about their 11/07 deal that has just recently shown up? On March 27, '08 after again seeing nothing on her docket about the "end-of-Diversion" hearing, I called Saffold's bailiff, (who could not be described as forthcoming, nor non-inquiring about my identity and my interest,) to find out if the hearing was proceeding that day or sometime in the future.
He told me to call the Prosecutor. I called Baxter's office, and after a few tries over the past months, someone in his office finally suggested I call the Probation Department. A call to the Cuy. Probation Department, again not met with forthcoming information nor lack of interest in my identity, did get me transferred to the Diversion Department - and got me to one of the most refreshing women with whom one would ever want to speak.
  • She told me what an odd case this one was... that though there was a journal entry that the women had been put in the Diversion Program - she had never seen them, they had never been clients of the Diversion Program, and they had never shown up.

    Then with the recent help of another, I found out last week, what ELSE was so special about that Nov. 5, '07:
    It seems that part of their Nov. deal, that kept them out of jail, and promised to get their records expunged, and possibly to have taxpayers pick up their massive legal tab for what they did and would not speak about, was also that they NEVER WERE REQUIRED TO SERVE ANY DIVERSION OR PROBATION duties or responsibilities or time either! They - and everyone involved - just walked off Scot Free!
Also related to me was that part of the deal said that they were to be following Erie County (Baxter's home county) procedures - a nice "covering touch" for any inquiries, don't you think?

No one - but US - essentially had to pay consequences (over and over and over again) for what was illegally done to us - faking our '04 presidential recount, which prevented us from seeing what may have also been illegally done to our '04 presidential election results, when "Bush took OH"
(Though Kerry won Cuyahoga, it is the overall numbers as accumulated into state numbers that matter. A small shift here, as in some other counties, could have aided the larger strange shift statewide, to cause the small-margin Blackwell/Bush "victory")

And remember - by November, '07 Vu also had been long gone from his approx. $120K Director job here, off to San Diego, since approximately the previous March, hired by a previous Utah election-crony for his next election stint, as Assistant Registrar of Voters at about $130K/year; after being allowed to "resign" here (per Bennett's insistence) despite a number of especially Dem calls for his firing or demotion; and allowed to take with him another $40K from Cuyahoga coffers as separation/consultancy agreement.

And by that time Bennett and the rest of the previous board were also long gone, removed by the SoS in the first half of the year, Bennett with a struggle, for which he stated plans to have taxpayers also pay for his lawsuit against the SoS too.
His public post-trial rants and campaigns of disinformation about the trial, the '04 election, the Prosecutors (who wouldn't deal the trial away - though on second thought, maybe they should have just done that. It would have saved us all alot of money, time and hoping things could turn out differently in Cuyahoga) and on other items have seemed to have quieted. (I don't know what he's doing behind the scenes.)

And by that time, Gwen Dillingham was also long gone, with her "resignation" and her March $40K "separation/consultation" agreement, which was also negotiated by none other than the same former board member, trial "defense" attorney, her good friend, Roger Synenberg, who it appears originally brought her to the CCBOE around '92, under his board tenure, as his "administrative aide."
(You can see this '92 early mention of Dillingham in this 18/15/92 PD article, available for download here, as it was saved from library-card accessed, PD archives. For more context about that article, and a review of the many '92 happenings/"foul-ups" as it is termed, at the CCBOE under Synenberg's CCBOE board tenure, refer to this 12/31/92 PD article, available for download here, also from library news archive. And for those of you who have access to such newspaper archive searches, after reading below, you might find it interesting to search many of the '91- '93 articles written by then PD-reporter, Bill Sammon. THAT was what journalism is supposed about.)

Will there be an end of "Diversion-That-Never-Was" hearing? Will Cuyahoga taxpayers also get stuck (or have they already gotten stuck) with the massive legal tab, for not only the Prosecutor, but also these womens' deal-making "defense" lawyers - seemingly working against us/against justice/against election justice? I don't know.

What will you do to try to find out, and do something about this, and other such continuing, entangled, ugly messes?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Another "Odd 'series' of events" with the Bd. of Voting Machine Examiners - this time with ES&S

"...does it seem odd to you too, that while the current 3 selectees for Brunner's Board of Voting Machine Examiners may be qualified for their current election official position, that people who are not independent from the SoS office or partisan alignments, and especially who don't hold firm qualifications and expertise in electronic election technology, are the people who are certifying our equipment for Ohio? "

Tomorrow will see
another meeting of the Jennifer Brunner's Board of Voting Machine Examiners.

Secretary Brunner Calls Meeting of the Board of Voting Machine Examiners


COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners will meet on Friday, July 11 at 2 p.m. in the 15th floor conference room of the Continental Plaza, 180 E. Broad St. in Columbus.

The board will be considering the following issue: whether certain modifications made to the hardware on E S & S’s AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminal Model A200 are enhancements or significant adjustments to the certified voting equipment.

This meeting is open to the public.

The board is composed of the following members: Inajo Davis Chappell, a member of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections; Dale Fellows, a member of the Lake County Board of Elections, and David R. Moots, a member of the Union County Board of Elections.


Media Contacts:
Jeff Ortega, Assistant Director of Communications, Media, 614-466-0473
Kevin Kidder, Media Relations Coordinator, 614-995-2168

So what is so "odd" about that? Well, let's see - and going from most recent "Oddities" first:

• "Odd" #1. - Today, when I called the Cuyahoga Commissioners to find out about ES&S contract - (which final negotiation was left to them, when the CCBOE could not come to financial and performance terms with ES&S after days and hours, but still voted on 6/20/08 to adopt ES&S's $4-5M higher bid over Hart's completed, more popular terms) I was told that they just approved it at this morning's Commissioners meeting.

Odd that the vote on the ES&S contract was not on the Commissioners published agenda for today, so interested parties - from the public too - could know to attend. Since the CCBOE decision to adopt ES&S happened on 6/20/08, and the lawyers had been working on contract terms for weeks before that, this was hardly an "emergency" issue that needed to be "walked on" with no public notice.

• "Odd" #2 -I won't yet know how "odd or "non-odd" the actual terms of contract are, until I see it, like:

  • how inflated costs may or may not be (For instance, are taxpayers still paying $1500/day/ea. for ES&S people, (upon whom I was told no background checks/resumes were provided for the March election,) to sit around, run our equipment, not convey knowledge independence to CCBOE managers, and maybe to even run OUR "acceptance testing" of their equipment....) ;
  • to what the $4-5M higher bid adopted by the CCBOE can be attributed;
  • how much is guaranteed in performance and warranties (or how little as with Diebold) and for what cost;
  • and ultimately, how much control of Cuyahoga citizens' election results is now being quietly handed over to ES&S (and friends at many levels) - from ballot design and "definition files" to running the tabulator and scanners, - all areas holding the potential for easily and undetectably changing Cuyahoga's vote results/creating them as some may desire.
• "Odd" #3 - Just as it was "odd" that SoS Brunner called a meeting of the Board of Voting Machine Examiners for July 3 about Hart InterCivic equipment being considered by the CCBOE- known about since early 2008, but with the "examiners" meeting, but for AFTER the CCBOE decision, this meeting of her "examiners" may be even "Odder."
The Commissioners sealed the almost $5M higher-than-Hart deal with ES&S, (today, in a seeming "emergency") - and THEN the "examiners" are to decide on whether or not some of the ES&S equipment in that contract should be considered "certified" in OH (tomorrow, again in some sort of meeting, without technology experts,) in Columbus??
Now THAT'S "Odd"!

• "Odd" #4 -
And to make #3 even "odder" - what Brunner's Board of Voting Machine Examiners will be considering - seems to involve the same issue that caused CA SoS Bowen to file a $15M lawsuit against ES&S last August, when it was found that the company seemingly had been trying to pass off their AutoMark 200's ( - then not yet certified by federal ITA's (certifying labs) and thus, were also not certified by the state of California - ) as their already-inspected/certified Automark 100 model,
  • either by "not mentioning" (one of a few "oversights" they claimed) that the Automark 200's were not the certified "100 Model,"
  • or as some allege, by concertedly masking the truth, even by putting the wrong sticker on their machines.
The meeting today (without tech experts) in Columbus is to determine if the these ballot marking devices for ADA compliance, the AutoMarks (that started out in $8-9K range each, and of which Cuyahoga plans to purchase approximately 600,) and which seemingly are the AutoMark Model 200's - apparently to determine if these marking devices can be considered certified in Ohio, just as their predecessors were:
"whether certain modifications made to the hardware on E S & S’s AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminal Model A200 are enhancements or significant adjustments to the certified voting equipment."

Yes, oddly, it seems that today the Commissioners may have signed for uncertified equipment.
Did they already know, that if anyone would deem to make a fuss - seemingly not the SoS - they'd be "covered" tomorrow?
I will be getting a tape of the deliberation to find if that "little glitch" was even mentioned - though there is probably "an out" clause in the contract.

The PD's coverage of today's Commissioners passage of the contract with a 2-1 vote, mentioned nothing of that little fact being spoken about. But using, (thus one might assume purchasing for use) uncertified equipment goes against state laws.

• "Odd" #5 - It also seems "odd" that the Board of Voting Machine Examiners would be taking up a question
(without tech experts) so widely discussed last year.
Here's what Wired Magazine said in their 8/21/07 article, "ES&S to be Rebuked, Fined and Possibly Banned in CA?" By Kim Zetter
(Where the article refers to looking at pictures, it's definitely worth going to the original post to see if you think the differences look like "enhancements" or "significant adjustments" that need checking.

"California announced today that it plans to hold an administrative hearing on September 20th to discuss the fate of Election Systems & Software for violating state election codes. ES&S, the top voting machine company in the country, is being accused of selling at least five CA counties a version of its AutoMark ballot marking system that hadn't yet been tested or certified for use in the state or the country.
ES&S apparently sold at least about 1,000 uncertified machines to San Francisco, Marin, Colusa, Solano and Merced counties. (The number of uncertified machines delivered to California was supplied by ES&S to the state; CA officials have yet to conduct their own inventory to determine if more machines are involved.)
Per CA law, ES&S could be fined $10,000 per uncertified voting system unit (or $9.72 million) and be required to give a complete refund to counties of all money spent on the machines -- the latter would amount to about $5 million.
Additionally, ES&S could be barred from doing any business in the state for between 1 and 3 years, which would impact more than just the five counties mentioned -- potentially affecting more than 14 counties that use ES&S machines, including Los Angeles County.
The issue raises questions about how many other uncertified AutoMarks the company may have sold to other states.
ES&S did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
The AutoMark A100 was certified for use in California in August 2005. However, in 2006, ES&S, by its own admission, sold about 1,000 units of its subsequent AutoMark model -- the A200 version -- to five CA counties months before the system passed federal qualification testing in August 2006. Voting machines generally undergo two stages of testing and certification, first by independent testing labs overseen by the federal government and then by the states themselves. But according to secretary of state spokeswoman Nicole Winger ES&S still has not submitted the A200 system to the state to examine and certify.
Winger also says that the A200 machines had stickers on them (see photo below) that identified them as having passed federal qualification testing, when they hadn't yet passed that testing. Winger says that the qualification stickers that were placed on the A200 machines were the stickers that are supposed to apply only to A100 machines. Winger says it's possible that the stickers were applied in error. But if ES&S deliberately placed the stickers on the machines it could suggest a deliberate attempt on the part of the company to deceive California election officials.
"We are in the early stages of learning about the facts," Winger told me. "We don't know who would have applied the A100 stickers to uncertified equipment."
Winger said the differences between the A100 and A200 systems are significant and easily identified just through visual inspection (see the photos above at right). The size of the motherboard and the types of wiring inside the machines are just two examples of the differences.
"Those are the first things on visual inspection that even a computer novice would notice," Winger says.
ES&S is not the first voting machine company to have sold uncertified equipment in CA. In 2003, the state discovered that Diebold Election Systems had installed uncertified software in machines in 17 counties. (UPDATE: Joseph Hall at UC Berkeley reminds me that Diebold wasn't the only company that had uncertified software running in CA counties in 2003. A subsequent review of all election software in the state at that time found that eight counties were using versions of ES&S software that had not been federally qualified or state certified. Other counties were also found to be using uncertified software made by vendors other than ES&S and Diebold.)
Stephen Weir, the clerk for Contra Costa County, which has 762 AutoMark units as part of a $14 million contract with ES&S, supports Bowen's decision to punish ES&S for violating state laws -- although his county isn't among those that received uncertified equipment.
"If a vendor is using equipment in California that is not certified, they need to get busted," he told me. "If in fact (Bowen has) found equipment that was not ceritifed, that's a violation of not just the trust that a vendor has with election officials and the state, that's a violation of law."
The AutoMark is a ballot marking device that is a hybrid between a touch-screen machine and an optical-scan unit. Voters insert a full-size paper ballot into the system and make their selections on a touch-screen. The machine marks their selections on the ballot before returning the ballot to voters. The ballot is then passed through an optical scanner and tabulated. The machine has been touted as an answer to both the accessibility issues involving disabled voters and the verification issues around paperless touch-screen machines since the machines include audio for blind voters and use a full-size paper ballot that voters can verify before submitting it to be scanned and tabulated.
ES&S has been the focus of much attention in recent months. Last week Dan Rather Reports disclosed that the company was assembling its touchscreen machines in a sweatshop factory in Manila, the Philippines. The company's touch-screen machines are also at the core of a disputed election in Sarasota, Florida."

"Odds"#6- 9 - And there remain the "oddities" about the Board of Voting Machine Examiners itself:

• "Odd #6 -
In this 6/29 post on this site, you'll see the question asked if this Board's composition should be following the recently passed Sub. HB350 - including one more member, (4 total) with two of the members chosen by members of the OH legislature of the opposite party than the SoS (not all chosen by the SoS.) The question remains.

But maybe not yet? - Until the Legislature returns from their summer recess and can pick their choices? -
though this is the second meeting called for this Board of Voting Machine Examiners this month - an unusually high frequency (& "oddly" timed.)

After the June 29th post on this site, referred to above, an election integrity activist wrote me (without permission to post her message, so I didn't) saying that it seemed "too soon" for Sub HB350 to have gone into effect, and further, that it didn't have the Governor's signature yet.
I point out again that I believe that passed legislation can go into effect without the Governor's signature, and the 10-day waiting time for that on this Bill ended on 6/17/08.

Also re: SubHB350's adoption, it seems from Secretary Brunner's own report on the March election, (http://www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/PressReleases/2008 Press Releases/2008-06-11.aspx) that she acknowledges that other provisions of that law are already in effect:
"Newly adopted legislation supported by the secretary of state would allow absentee ballots absentee ballots received within 10 days after the election that bear a postmark prior to Election Day to be counted by the board of elections. Further instruction on this new law's implementation will be provided on this new law’s implementation will be provided to boards of elections via advisory and/or directive prior to the general election. "
Why not this provision of the Bill, about the Board of Voting machine Examiners? It is making for a busy summer for them.

• "Odd" #7 - And re: the busy Board of Voting Machine Examiners summer,
since taxpayers are paying each of the three current members $300 per meeting, (minimum $900 per gathering;) and the two issues they're dealing with have been known for months, and we're not yet sure which of them has the tech expertise to assess and certify equipment, might it not seem less odd to not only time these meetings BEFORE counties make critical purchase decisions, but also to combine issues, and deal with more than one at a time? (Hey besides the minimum $1800 we're spending for the two July gatherings, look at the just the gas they'd save.)

• "Odd"#8 - And is it not "odd", that on July 10 we still don't have any minutes of what happened at our $900, July 3, BoVMEx meeting online? That we, who are not paid for the day and travel expenses to Columbus, still don't easily know exactly what happened/what was decided about the Hart InterCivic card readers?

I understand from someone who IS able to get information from the SoS office, that those card readers were "approved" at that meeting and thus, the already certified Hart voting equipment is good to go in OH.

Also to clear up another item that the same election integrity activist sent, this was NOT a question about Hart's memory cards used to gather votes.
It was seemingly a question (or non-question) about their card readers, as the SoS press release states.
In a call to Hart on July 2, a spokesperson explained to me that their changed card reader had already been federally certified; that the Secretary of State had been notified, per the law, early in '08, if not late in '07; that Hamilton County (the only OH county using Hart) had also been much earlier notified, as required by law; that, (I would have to assume with the Secretary of State's knowledge,) Hart even supplied Hamilton with a few of these new card readers to use for their March 4 election; and that because of all the prior compliances/acceptances, Hart was only planning to attend the July 3 meeting by phone. Altogether, the previous series of events seems to possibly make the 7/3 BofVMEx meeting rather superfluous. How "odd"!

• "Odd"#9 - And finally here, as pointed out a few times above - does it seem odd to you too, that while the current 3 selectees for Brunner's Board of Voting Machine Examiners may be qualified for their current election official position, that people who are not independent from the SoS office or partisan alignments, and especially who don't hold firm qualifications and expertise in electronic election technology, are the people who are certifying our equipment for Ohio? The same equipment that independent scientists have found can be easily manipulated by those who do know, to create desired election results - whether touchscreens or paper ballots.

So what's next? I'll post here the ES&S contract when I receive it - and maybe portions of the Commissioners' meeting tape.

But just as my momma used to say, "When things look "odd", they usually aren't. You're just not asking the right questions, or focusing on the right issues."

What questions do you think need to be asked? Of whom?

A "Cluster Gl*!tch?" Or has this Blog site been blocked from County servers?

As I prepare more video for posting (so you can see it for yourself;) and wait and wait, and remind and wait - for both the Secretary of State's office and the Cuyahoga BOE to comply with the law, and "promptly" fill a few simple public records requests in a month or less, another rather interesting issue has come up.

A few people who work at County agencies, including at the CCBOE, have (separately) recently told me that within the past few weeks they suddenly have not been able to access this blog site from their work computers.
The message that has appeared said "access denied" (- in a system I understand to have various levels of internet accessing freedoms - depending on job title and/or hierarchy.)

Is this just another temporary "glitch" in the County computer system?
Or could it be true that this site is being blocked from CCBOE and other county workers' office internet access?

If it's the latter - and Lord help us all, if things have gotten so low - I invite you readers send me your comments about why you think someone(s) would want to block their workers' access here.

To help get to the materiality of the matter, if you're a county worker, and are reading here from work, please send me a comment (under the name you choose) and let me know that all is well again with free access here ( a grandma's election integrity site - hardly retail, gaming or "entertainment." )

And if you're a tech genius, also please send me a comment about confirming or denying any blockage to this site from Cuyahoga County (and/or Ohio's state) servers.

Will let all know what we find out....