Published 10:49 am Wednesday, September 23, 2020

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Lucas C. Allison, Dispatch Correspondent

The Wilcox Board of Elections held its regular monthly meeting Thursday Sept. 8th , all board members were present as was April Graham, Elections Supervisor.   Mrs. Graham reported that one employee had left for fulltime employment elsewhere.  She stated she had received 22 applications for the position, of those only 5 wanted to interview and two of those were 30 minutes late for their interviews.  She submitted three candidates for Board review and choose a final candidate to submit to Paula Jones Ball, Wilcox County Manager for hiring approval.  The three names submitted were Kay Coker, Tonya McCullough, and Stacey Harrell.  The Board approved to send Tonya McCullough’s name to Mrs. Ball as their selection.  Mrs. Graham also submitted an invoice for approval for replacement of wire and receptacle in the Elections office in the amount of $348.00.  Mrs. Graham reported that absentee ballots will be sent out beginning September 18th and would be done by a contractor, the last day to send out absentee ballots will be October 30th.  The contractor would charge $1.40 per ballot sent between Sept. 18th and Oct. 30th after the initial release.  It would only cost the Elections office $1.03 to mail them out, the Board approved for the Elections office to send them out.

Mrs. Graham also stated she needed to hire seven more poll workers for the upcoming elections.

Bryan Hollingsworth the Republican appointee to the Elections Board advised the Board that effective 12-31-2020, he would be resigning his position as a Board Member and Secretary.

Mr. Hollingsworth stated he was not pleased with how the Wilcox Commissioners has dealt with the Elections office and Board.   He stated his main reason to resign is the fact that on March 20, 2020, in a Special Called meeting the Board of Commissioners voted to change legislation via HB1200 concerning the employees of the Elections office and Elections Supervisor.  The change was that now all Elections office employees to include the Elections supervisor if the Board chooses to have one whether full-time, part-time, and poll workers will now be hired, fired, disciplined etc.  will be done by the County Manager acting on the recommendations from the Board of Elections.  Previously  the Elections Supervisor was under the direction of the Board Chair and Elections personnel were supervised by the Elections Supervisor.  The Wilcox Bd of Commissioners submitted the legislation to Rep. Noel Williams to introduce which it was and passed and was signed into law on June 30, 2020.  Mr. Hollingworth, stated he felt Commissioners were playing games and not being transparent by not asking the Board for it’s opinion on the legislative changes that were submitted without the Board’s knowledge, he stated as a member of the Elections Board he received a memo dated August 28, 2020 advising him of the change.  He also stated, “what is the purpose of the Board of Elections if Commissioners can do this what else can they do”?  He stated he was staying thru December because of upcoming elections.  Mr. Hollingsworth stated he was not concerned with who knew it, but his intentions are to run for a seat on the  County Commission the next election when his district is on the ballot.  The Board accepted the resignation with sadness and thanked Mr. Hollingsworth for his dedicated service.  Board Member Mrs. Barbara Bailey stated she has been on the Elections Board for ten years and does not ever remember having any conflict with the Board of Commissioners and wished it were not happening now.  The overall consensus was that no member of the Board of Elections was in favor of the changes that were made to the law.

Chairman Mike Sutton reported Rules, Regulations and By-Laws of Board of Elections are being reviewed and updated.  He recommends that they standardize the hiring practice to include how and where vacancies and positions are advertised, the interview process, the qualifications, and how a recommendation to hire is determined.  Mr. Sutton stated that way if we are ever challenged by inquiry or lawsuit, we can be consistent and transparent in our actions and be able to defend our decisions.  It was agreed Mr. Sutton would work on this and present at the October meeting.

Chairman Sutton, then began discussions on the current budget overages and the proposed 2020-2021 budget which was submitted to Commissioners by he and Mrs. Graham.  Mr. Sutton stated they were originally told Elections was over budget this year by $54,886.35, however as of August 31, 2020 that overage has been reduced  to $37.717.31 the difference that the County Manager stated there was an error in coding  $17,169.04 in salaries for the Recreation department staff was coded to Elections salaries and charged to their budget.   However as of 8-31-20 salaries for Elections are overbudget $13,184.55 and Overtime is over budget $3237.07

which is a total of $16,515.00 overage in salaries and overtime this year’s budget which ends 09-30-20.  It was noted that $14,000.00 in grant monies and $4500.00 from the Abbeville election has not been credited to Elections according April Graham, Elections Supervisor which would negate the total overage on the current budget to $19,217.00 according to the Board figures. It was noted that no overtime was budgeted for the current budget, but a $10,000 increase in salaries and $5000.00 increase for overtime was included in the proposed budget submitted to Commissioners.

The Board approved to change the regular monthly meetings to the 2nd Wednesday of each month at 10 am this change is to accommodate Chairman Sutton who cannot take off on Thursdays.  The Board wanted to remind citizens the last day to register to vote in the November election is October 5th.  There being no further business the meeting was adjourned. The Board of Elections meets at 377 College Street in Abbeville at the Elections office. The public is welcome.