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Dispute is holding up payments for machines



Published: Sat, September 2, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



By DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Thomas McCabe, Mahoning County Board of Elections director, has a list of questions written on a marker board above his desk for the board's voting machine vendor.

Problem is, he can't get them answered because the company, Election Systems & amp; Software of Omaha, Neb., hasn't been paid about $450,000 for voting machines and maintenance agreements.

"There's a problem downtown with the bills not being paid," McCabe said Friday at a board meeting.

The board has the money in its account and the purchase orders for the equipment. The additional voting machines were bought in September 2004.

"I don't blame ES & amp;S for any of this," McCabe said.

Board members say they're caught in the middle of a dispute between Mahoning County commissioners, county Administrator George Tablack and Auditor Michael Sciortino.

Building purchase

Sciortino has refused to write a $75,000 check to pay for the county's purchase of the Oakhill Renaissance Center, saying he wants information about the short- and long-term costs of the county's occupancy of the building and where the money will come from.

He, Treasurer John Reardon and Commissioner John McNally filed an objection in U.S. bankruptcy court on the sale, opposing the county's purchase of the building. McNally had voted against the purchase.

Before being appointed auditor, Sciortino served as elections director.

The bankruptcy court judge granted commissioners' motion to strike the objection and approved the sale to the county.

Sciortino, Tablack and Anthony Traficanti, commissioners chairman, couldn't be reached.

Old batteries

Among problems the elections board and its staff face is that many of the batteries that power voting machines have met their useful life, but McCabe said to change them, the old batteries must be cut out and the new ones soldered in. That's something the company normally would take care of.

The company also didn't submit a bid to provide ballots for the November election. Only two companies did: one with which the board had problems in May with timeliness, and the other that will make its debut with the county's elections process in November.

Robert Wasko, elections board chairman, asked if the dispute and problems it's created put the board in a position of possibly violating its statutory responsibility in an election.

"I would not say that," McCabe said. "It just makes our job that much more difficult."

Clarence Smith, board member, suggested board members compose a letter to the parties, asking that the issue be resolved.

Michael Morley, board member, said the letter should include statements that the matter will be referred to the Mahoning County Prosecutor's office if it's not resolved.

Candidates, issues certified

Board members also certified the three county court judge candidates and all of the questions and issues on the November ballot -- except for two liquor options.

Both of the options, one for Sunday sales at the Trojan Horse, North 15th Street, Sebring, and the other for beer and wine sales at Pizza Hut, South Avenue, Boardman, had problems with sufficient valid signatures.

The board also set 8 a.m. Tuesday for a special meeting to decide about combining precincts in an effort to save money and improve efficiency.




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