Votes and $$ Stolen in SF!
- Dear friends:Just in case you missed this article in the Chronicle. Big thing!Frontlines StaffFriday, May 18, 2001 (SF Chronicle)
Ballot mystery clouds S.F. vote/City official says 3,600 'unaccounted for'
Rachel Gordon, Chronicle Staff Writer
A top San Francisco elections official quietly dropped a bombshell on City
Hall yesterday by asserting that about 3,600 ballots are "unaccounted for"
from last November's election.
That and other allegations by Phillip Paris, acting director of the
Department of Elections, prompted the city's top administrator to say the
charges "could affect the highest levels of government."
It was not clear last night what effects the ballots in question could
have had on the outcome of San Francisco supervisorial races, most of
which were ultimately decided in a December runoff election. It was the
first time in two decades that San Francisco voters selected supervisors
by district instead of citywide.
The allegations were made by Paris in a letter yesterday to City Attorney
Louise Renne. The letter also was distributed to members of the Board of
Supervisors late yesterday.
Paris alleged that the elections director, Patty Fado, who is now on
maternity leave, and top deputy Christiane Hayashi knew about the
"unaccounted for" ballots and "failed to report this major discrepancy."
In addition, he alleged that Fado and Hayashi signed fraudulent time
sheets "with a possible loss to the city in excess of $1 million" for
employees who did not do the work.
He also charged Fado with committing the department to more than $1.6
million in expenses that were not authorized.
"These are very serious allegations that could affect the highest levels
of government," City Administrator Bill Lee told The Chronicle last night.
Lee has jurisdiction over the Department of Elections but would not
comment directly on the allegations.
"There are a lot of questions," Lee said. "That's why we have to do a
thorough investigation." But, he added, "if they're found true, this could
have serious ramifications for San Francisco."
Hayashi, reached by phone early today, said Paris' allegations are
"obviously very serious, and I do think they're outrageous. I don't think
I can meaningfully talk about this until I have seen the letter and have
had an opportunity to discuss this with my attorney." She did not want to
Fado could not be reached for comment.
Lee said he has yet to determine the scope of any investigation and which,
if any, outside agencies would be called in to help with a probe.
In his letter, Paris asked Renne to appoint an outside counsel to assist
him in a more comprehensive administrative review of the department. He
noted that Hayashi, a deputy city attorney, is on loan to the Department
of Elections from Renne's office.
"In this regard, you and your office, in my judgment, have a clear
conflict of interest under the (state) Fair Political Practices Act and
the California State Bar code of ethics," said Paris.
Paris came into the Department of Elections in October as a deputy under
Fado and took over on an interim basis after the November election.
He said he will seek "expedited arbitration of your office's conflict of
interest" by the State Bar.
Renne was out of town last night and unavailable for comment, as was her
Paris refused to discuss his letter last night. It remained unclear what
the fate is of the ballots -- for example, whether they are missing or not
tabulated, and what races they may have affected.
Only Board of Supervisors President Tom Ammiano and Supervisor Gavin
who was unopposed, won their seats outright in the November election.
Election of supervisors for the nine other districts were decided in a
Newsom, reached at home last night, said he will make an official request
on Monday for a charter amendment that would require the Department of
Elections and the Ethics Commission, which oversees campaign finance laws
in the city, to be provided with independent counsel.
"I look forward to a full investigation and the elimination of any
conflict of interest between the city attorney and this investigation,"
Lee said that the first time he heard of Paris' charges was yesterday,
when he saw a copy of the letter at about the time copies were given to
the supervisors. "It really took me by surprise," he said.