Board of Elections head voted out after years of problems
The city Board of Elections voted out its executive director George Gonzalez yesterday after years of scandals involving late poll openings, privacy violations, broken voting machines and other problems.“It’s an agency run amok,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a press conference. The problems “aren’t limited to any one person … there is a total lack of … accountability for how the Board functions because this is the remnants of Tammany Hall.”
The mayor urged lawmakers to reform the Board “so the people running elections are hired based on merit instead of political connections.”
Good government groups also demanded that the Board – comprised of five Republicans and five Democrats, one from each borough – depart from the usual patronage appointments and conduct a national search for a non-partisan replacement with a background in electoral administration.
Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for NYPIRG, agreed that the Board should “pick someone who is not a party functionary,” with a clear commitment to transparency in all operations.The Board, which declined to make Gonzalez available for comment, issued a statement naming his interim replacements “to ensure a smooth general election.” Six board members voted in favor of ousting Gonzalez and four abstained, the statement said.
Pamela Perkins, a BOE administrator and wife of Democratic state senator Bill Perkins, and Dawn Sandow, former aide to Republican State Sen. Guy Velella and an ex-deputy chief of the Bronx BOE, will share the executive director position until a permanent replacement is found.
Firing Gonzalez – who has worked for the Board for 22 years in many capacities, but has held his current $172,753-a-year post since August – is no panacea for election horrors in NYC, experts said.
“The problems are much more systemic than any one individual,” said Larry Norden, senior counsel for The Brennan Center.
Reform legislation “would pass in the twinkling of an eye if the voters were presented with it,” said Susan Lerner, Common Cause. “Getting it through the Legislature is the problem.”