Election board says goodbye to Crispell, seeks clearing up over powers

By Patrick Kernan - [email protected]
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WILKES-BARRE — Before the business for which the meeting was called began, the Luzerne County Board of Elections took a moment to recognize the departure of their director, Marisa Crispell.

Crispell’s recent resignation officially takes effect Friday, coming after a controversy in which she attended advisory board trips to Las Vegas, Nevada, and Omaha, Nebraska, funded by Election Systems & Software (ES&S), the company that sold the county its electronic poll books.

According to Crispell, her involvement on the board was cleared by Administrative Services Division Head David Parsnik and county assistant solicitor Michael Butera and that she stepped down from the advisory role in fall 2017 before the county sought proposals from electronic poll book suppliers in January 2018.

For its part on Wednesday, the board seemed to agree with Crispell’s version of events, with chairman Lewis Wetzel calling for a motion for the board to unanimously express its disappointment in Crispell’s departure. Wetzel added that Crispell was perhaps the best director he had worked with during his time with the board.

The true purpose of the meeting, though, was twofold: to approve polling place location changes across the county and to discuss with Butera what, exactly, the full extent of their powers is.

All told, the board unanimously approved nearly 40 changes of polling places throughout the county. Avout a quarter of those were changed due to the original polling places being noncompliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the remainder of the changes come from the ongoing redistricting efforts. However, these changes don’t officially go into effect yet, as they require court approval.

As for the powers of the board, which the board requested Butera research in an attempt to clear up confusion, things are still less than clear.

According to Butera, there are some things which the board clearly has power over, including running elections and certifying them.

“I think there’s no doubt about that,” Butera said.

From there, though, that’s where things get “confusing,” as there are many powers that are left vague. The two important ones at the moment are the hiring process of Crispell’s replacement and the purchasing of voting equipment. Board member Keith Gould pointed out that there’s “nothing” in the home rule charter that directly relates to the purchasing of voting equipment.

Butera’s official suggestion, then, was for the board to have a meeting with county manager C. David Pedri, who Butera said has indicated that he was “ready, willing and able” to discuss issues such as these.

It’s not clear when such a meeting will take place.

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By Patrick Kernan

[email protected]

Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan

Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan