Maria J. Avila © News
Voting machines are lined up at the Arapahoe County Voting Systems Facility in Littleton, as the county gears up for the Feb. 24 recall vote against Clerk and Recorder Tracy Baker. He and county officials traded jabs over who's to blame for dead batteries in the machines, requiring the county to spend an extra $100,000.
Getting zapped for vote
Clerk's recall election $100,000 pricier after batteries for voting machines lose juice
By Jim Tankersley, Rocky Mountain News
February 5, 2004
Arapahoe County will spend an extra $100,000 on Tracy Baker's recall election, because nobody bothered to charge the batteries in county voting machines.
County commissioners blame Baker, the clerk and recorder, who oversaw the machines as they sat unplugged and their power seeped away.
Baker blames commissioners, saying they took away his ability to charge the machines by placing an elections worker on administrative leave.
Ed Bosier, the county assessor put in charge of the recall, won't blame anyone. But he said Wednesday that the cost of replacing 800 batteries - which can't be recharged once they've died - will probably push the price of the election over $400,000.
The recall is scheduled for Feb. 24, though Baker continues to fight it in court.
Opponents say Baker should go because he has mismanaged his office and created a hostile environment for employees, seven of whom have filed claims against the county.
The effort stems in part from Baker's relationship with Assistant Chief Deputy Leesa Sale, which included sexually explicit electronic messages exchanged on county equipment.
Baker, commissioners and Bosier are in accord on a few things regarding the dead batteries.
The voting machines, they agree, were last used in the November 2002 general election - everything since has been a mail ballot. Normally, the machines are stored in a warehouse, plugged into power bays that keep them charged.
After the 2002 election, Baker said, commissioners placed the person responsible for charging the batteries on administrative leave after the worker filed his claim against the county.
Baker said he could not hire anyone else, and the county's risk management office told him not to touch the machines. He said he warned commissioners what would happen if they weren't charged.
"We knew this would happen," he said, "yet we did just what we were told by the county, so they can blame themselves."
County officials disagree. They say Baker had the money to hire more workers.
They also said risk managers told Baker not to fix the machine's exteriors, which were damaged during the 2002 election - but they didn't say not to charge them.
"Mr. Baker knows those machines need to be maintained," said Andrea Rasizer, the county's public information officer.
"So it is very annoying that taxpayers are once again picking up the bill for Tracy's mismanagement of that office," Rasizer said.
County officials said they'll consider filing a claim against Baker's $250,000 surety bond - which protects the county in case he steals money, property or other securities - for the battery costs.
Baker said they can't: "It's not a performance issue."
Bosier, who discovered the dead batteries in October and ordered them replaced in time for the recall, said new batteries will cost about $80,000.
Installing them, county officials say, will cost around $15,000 more.
But Bosier won't pin the cost on anyone. "I'm certainly not going to assign blame," he said, "because I'm not sure there's blame to assign."
tankersleyj@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-892-5219
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