A long-besieged senior New York City council of elections official defended hiring political buddies on a merit-based selection system during a state Senate hearing Tuesday in Albany.
“Patronage, if that’s what you want to call it – I don’t think you’ll have public servants working 12 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Dawn Sandow, deputy director of NYCBOE, a product of the system as a longtime Bronx. Appointed Republican – told lawmakers at the state’s Senate Elections Committee, raising eyebrows, as comments were unsolicited.
Sandow testified at the hearing with BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan, who had been absent since March due to a stage 4 cancer diagnosis, and during her testimony she often intervened, interrupting him to express her take a look at what happened over the past year as she ran the agency in his place.
Sandow offered the Gordon Gekko-style ‘patronage is good’ mantra while championing the efforts of the BOE’s workforce amid the COVID-19 pandemic as the agency had to administer primary elections during the worst inaugural phase of the COVID-19 outbreak in June 2020, setting the stage for the first-ever presidential election advance voting administration.
Five employees died from the deadly virus and countless more fell ill with the disease during the pandemic, according to a BOE spokesperson.
Sandow also lambasted former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, complaining that he rejected a demand to classify election workers as “essential” workers during the pandemic, which would have forced more of them to report for work.
But the board was later criticized for failing the first attempt at a city-wide ranking vote in the mayor’s Democratic primary on June 22, botched the results and requiring an embarrassing recount.
Officials later admitted that they accidentally included the results of the “tests” in the final ballot count, adding 135,000 more ballots to the lists.
It was also revealed Monday in a report released by Princeton University and the Stevens Institute of Technology that the ailing board had compromised voter privacy data, revealing the voting records of at least 378 voters. – including the vote cast by outgoing Bill de Blasio’s son, Dante de Blasio.
A senior state BOE official – Commissioner Doug Kellner – said the structure of the city’s board needs to be overhauled.
“It’s time to abolish 10 commissioners,” he said, noting that the panel structure diverges from virtually all other statewide local and county election boards that are headed by two commissioners – a Republican and a Democrat.
“There are endemic issues on the board that predate COVID-19 and those that I think need to be addressed,” echoed the powerful President of the Elections State Senator Zellnor Myrie ( D-Brooklyn).
“I think there is some kind of elephant in the room – or maybe for that matter, a donkey and an elephant – in the perception of whether you consider it fair or unfair, that political parties exercise too much. control over the electoral council. “
“The notion of responsibility, and who is the average board of directors of employees, or [who] the commissioner feels responsible, is an issue which I think is at the forefront of people trying to figure out what is wrong, ”he said, wondering how a worker would be hired on the merits rather than by friends.
“There is no protocol on how I am hired, how I am fired, how I am promoted. It’s not about what I know, but rather who I know that is the problem.
Ryan admitted that the policy tainted the hiring process, but also argued that this is not the case in all cases.
“There are a myriad of ways that can happen just like in any other place, and the political process is certainly one part of that. But where we get most of our employees, the regular employees, it comes as they get involved in the process, starting as election officers and sort of, you know, they progress, ”he said. he explained.
“There’s now less than 40% of our election workers going through the standard political process, you know, and you know, 60% and over, are regular neighbors and friends, you know. So, and maybe they get involved in the political process afterwards, ”he said.