January 17, 2013

Essex County fails to reappoint election chief

Essex Board didn't act onGOP recommendation


---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — It’s not certain why Essex County Republican Election Commissioner Derinda Sherman wasn’t reappointed, but it’s too late now.

Sherman’s term was up at the end of 2012, and although the Essex County Republican Committee recommended her reappointment, it was never brought to a vote at a County Board of Supervisors session.

County Democratic Election Commissioner Robert Pell-deChame of Ticonderoga was nominated for a new two-year term and reappointed in December.

But the deadline to act on the Republican Committee’s recommendation for Sherman expired Jan. 14, so the appointment goes back to the GOP leadership for another try.

That’s expected to be made Tuesday, Jan. 22, when the County Republican Committee holds its first meeting of the New Year.

By law, although her term has expired, Sherman can serve until someone else is appointed.

She said no one has given her a reason why the board didn’t act on her appointment, and she doesn’t want to speculate.

“I don’t want to comment,” she said. “I may be bringing litigation.”


Only one person has asked to be considered for the part-time, $18,000-a-year post at this point: Allison McGahay of Lake Placid, an attorney who is a former Essex County assistant district attorney.

Two other candidates, Noel Merrihew III, a former Elizabethtown town supervisor; and Lane Sayward, a former Willsboro town councilor; withdrew their names from consideration earlier this week.

People who want the job, said Republican Committee Chairman Ronald Jackson, should let him know as soon as possible.

“Anybody interested should get a letter out to the committee by the 22nd,” he said. “I sent a letter out advising everyone of the process.”

He said they’ll ask those interested to make brief presentations at the committee meeting, then members will vote on who to recommend.

“People have talked to me. Whether they follow up, we’ll see on the 22nd.”

It may be that no one asks for the appointment, he said, in which case Sherman will continue serving until a recommendation is made and the Board of Supervisors affirms it.

Jackson said Sherman is not bitter, and, in fact, told him she’ll assist in training the new commissioner.

“Derinda says she’ll work with whomever is appointed. She’ll help them.”


Pell-deChame said he has had no problems with Sherman.

“I enjoy working with her. We have a professional working relationship.”

Jackson said some Republican members of the Board of Supervisors told him they would have voted for Sherman, but by law, the next recommendation must be someone else.

“It cannot be Derinda. When I submitted the official notice that she was our candidate, two clocks started running: a 30-day clock and a 60-day clock.”

The board could have appointed her within 30 days, or the Republican caucus of the board could have taken action within 60 days, he said, but neither was done, and the 60 days was up as of Monday.


Jackson said he has never heard of such a situation occurring, and neither have other county chairs he has talked with.

“I can only guess at the reason. It’s just unfortunate,” he said. 

“Some supervisors don’t like the new reporting method for election results, where you can’t call results in from the towns,” he continued. “She wouldn’t do what they wanted, so they’re mad at her.”

County lawmakers had criticized the Board of Elections for waiting until voting machine memory cards were delivered from the polls on election night before posting the results on the county website. 

In previous years, vote totals were called in from polling places, but Sherman stopped the practice, saying too many errors occurred that way.

One of the board’s senior Republicans, Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) said it is true the Board of Elections was told that election results must be posted sooner.

“The election night results are a controversy. With the new machines, it was supposed to be instantaneous. Now you’re hanging around until midnight to get the results.”


The real reason Sherman’s appointment wasn’t acted upon may be that, with the recent death of Supervisor Joyce Morency (R-St.Armand), the board’s senior Republican, no one else knew the procedure, Scozzafava speculated.

“With Joyce not being there, nobody took the reins over to discuss it as a body,” he said. “The issue fell through the cracks.”

Scozzafava said he didn’t know the timeframe for an election-commissioner appointment until County Attorney Daniel Manning III sent them a letter about it earlier this month.

“No one moved a resolution for reappointment,” he said. “Nothing transpired. It’s a political process, and it certainly is political. I don’t have any issues personally with either commissioner.”

A Westport resident, Sherman was appointed commissioner in January 2010. 

In Essex County, election commissioners are part-time, while deputy commissioners are full-time.

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