Press-Republican

October 12, 2013

Ethics reprimand issued by Essex County

By LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — The Essex County Ethics Board has reprimanded former County Republican Election Commissioner Derinda Sherman for handing out some absentee ballots too soon.

In a stipulation of settlement just released by the Ethics Board, Sherman admitted she gave absentee ballots early to County Board of Elections employees for the 2012 general election.

“The respondent (Sherman) knowingly and voluntarily admits that she improperly provided and prematurely received on Oct. 15, 2012, absentee ballots to two Board of Elections employees,” the decision reads. “She further acknowledges that she improperly instructed the Board of Elections’ employees to hold the ballots until Oct. 24, 2012, and not to timestamp them until Oct. 24, 2012.

“Respondent further acknowledges that at the time these ballots were executed, she was aware that New York State Election Law Section 11-302 specifies that the distribution, acceptance and filing of special ballots is not permitted until two weeks prior to the election date and that two weeks prior to the election date was Oct. 23, 2012, and not Oct. 15, 2012.”

NO FINE

The original charge was filed with the Ethics Board in December 2012, according to the stipulation of settlement, with amended charges in June and a settlement in September.

Although the Ethics Board has fined other county officials it ruled had committed misdeeds, Sherman was not fined because she is no longer a county employee.

Her term as county Republican election commissioner ended when the County Board of Supervisors missed a January deadline to reappoint her. In February, Allison McGahay of Lake Placid was named to the Republican commissioner position by the Board of Supervisors.

A reason for not reappointing Sherman was not given publicly at the time.

SAYS DIDN'T KNOW

In an interview with the Press-Republican, Sherman said she lost her job because of the fracas over the absentee ballots.

“I thought I was a good person going in there and trying to correct everything in that office," she said on Friday. "They (the ballots) were never counted; they were voided. 

"(The voters) were sent new ballots.”

Sherman, a Westport resident, was named election commissioner in 2010. She replaced Lewis Sanders of Ticonderoga, who resigned in February 2010 after being out on sick leave for six months. Election commissioners receive about $18,000 a year each plus health-insurance benefits and are part-time county employees, while deputy commissioners are full-time.

In the interview, Sherman said she knew the absentee ballots could not be used to vote until a specific date, but didn’t know they couldn’t be issued at all.

“Two election workers came in — we were training them to be (voting machine) techs. I knew we could not receive their ballots for two weeks. I had no recollection we couldn’t give them out for two weeks. 

"Someone from my office called and made this a big deal to Dan Manning. He turned it over to the Ethics Board.”

'SETTLED DUE TO COST'

County Attorney Daniel Manning III represents the Ethics Board as part of his duties as counsel for Essex County. The board, chaired by Michael Orticelle, held meetings earlier this year with Sherman and her attorney, Joseph Brennan of Glens Falls, before she agreed to the decision.

Sherman said she settled the case because of the cost of defending herself.

“You can’t make one mistake. Never mind all the good things I accomplished there.”

Sherman is currently second vice chair of the Essex County Republican Committee.

Email Lohr McKinstry: lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com