Search begins to replace embattled Richland County elections director

cleblanc@thestate.comApril 3, 2013 

Richand County deputy director of voter registration Lillian McBride

C. ALUKA BERRY — Buy Photo

— A search committee met Wednesday behind closed-doors to begin sifting through 17 applications from people who want to become Richland County’s new director of elections and voter registration.

The four-member panel voted 3-1 to go into executive session to begin discussions of applicants for a job that apparently does not yet have a specific salary.

Panel member Rep. Jimmy Bales, D-Richland, voted against a closed-door session, saying he feels such private discussions should occur when a public body is deciding to award a contract – not to discuss job candidates. Panel chairman Herbert Sims, County Councilman Norman Jackson and Columbia attorney Sue Berkowitz voted to have a private discussion.

Berkowitz said some of the information the panel was to discuss was personal.

Sims, who is chairman of the search committee and a new member of the Elections & Voter Registration Board that selected the panel, said he doubts a group of finalists would be selected Wednesday. Sims said a timetable for choosing finalists, whose names will go to the board for a final decision, had not been set.

Sims would not allow a fellow board member, Elaine DuBose, or acting elections director Jasper Salmond to participate in the panel’s discussions, DuBose and Salmond said.

DuBose, a 13-year veteran of the board that oversees the elections and registration office, attended the panel’s meeting at the elections office on Hampton Street. She asked to stay in the conference room for the private discussion.

When Sims denied her request, DuBose sat outside the closed room.

“I was just concerned when they (the board) appointed a five-month member (Sims) over a 13-year member,” she said. Her complaint about the membership of the panel underscores continuing strains among board members. The board’s chairwoman, Liz Crum, resigned in protest in December when the board failed to remove controversial elections and voter registration director Lillian McBride, who later resigned for a lower-paying, newly created position.

As for the new director position, Sims and DuBose said they did ot know whether the board set a salary range or a salary cap before advertising the job.

Salmond said he thought the board had set a cap. But Salmond, a former, longtime member of the Richland 1 school board, said he was unsure.

The board asked Salmond to be the agency’s acting director after McBride stepped down in the wake of a public outcry over how McBride mismanaged the Nov. 6 election in Richland County.

Voters faced extraordinarily long waits – some up to seven hours – because McBride’s office hired too few poll workers and distributed too few voting machines, many of which failed, critics have said. No one in her office caught the shortcomings before Election Day.

Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.

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