May 12, 2014

Cheers and Jeers: May 12, 2014

JEERS to Plattsburgh City School District officials for opening themselves to criticism on the way ballot positions were chosen.

The district has a contentious School Board election coming up, due to two outspoken citizens filing petitions to run this year: Walter Chmura and Ken Baker, both of whom have questioned district spending.

Baker has been saying publicly for years that he thinks the election process in the City District is skewed because there is too little independent monitoring of ballot counts and other aspects of the vote.

So what do district officials do when it is time to choose ballot positions for the candidates this year? They do not, as they had for a number of years, contact all the candidates to tell them the date, time and place of the drawing of names.

The drawing was then held in the Duken administration building's reception room with only four people present: Superintendent Jake Short, District Clerk Dawn Stetz and employees Kathy Light and Jean Bruce.

Not a wise decision. It leaves the district open to criticism that the process was rigged, especially when the order on the ballot has the two School Board incumbents in the coveted first and second spots, followed by the challengers: first spot, Tracy Rotz; second, Fred Wachtmeister Jr.; third, Kenneth Baker; and fourth, Walter Peter Chmura.

Contacted by the Press-Republican for an explanation of the lack of candidate notification about specifically when the drawing would take place, Short sent this response:

"Consistent with Education Law; District Meetings, Section 2032(2)(b) board candidate names were drawn the day after petitions were due.

"All four candidates running for office this year have participated in one or more elections in the past and by virtue of their involvement have knowledge of the name drawing process.

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