Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Repug In The Eye Of A Storm

(By the way, I also posted over here today.)

Jenna Portnoy of the Bucks County Courier Times wrote a lengthy story on Sunday about the latest developments with the former polling location at Creekside, now located at the St. Mary’s Wellness Center; the move appears to be a suitable compromise, but the voter disenfranchisement lawsuit spawned by the move is still going forward.

There were a few “takeaways” from the story for your humble narrator, and I’ll share some of them, notably the following excerpt (and to begin, the story notes that the Bucks County Commissioners, in an interesting bit of political sleight of hand, did not actually authorize the move, but three judges, who act as the Board of Elections when commissioners are on the ballot, did so) …

Marc Weinstein, an attorney representing Creekside residents in a voter disenfranchisement lawsuit, said the move was a Republican ploy to make it hard for Democrats to vote.

During a hearing earlier this month, Weinstein tried to link (Bucks Commissioners Jim) Cawley and (Charley “I Have A Semi-Open Mind”) Martin, Bucks County Chief Operating Officer Dave Sanko, Bensalem solicitor Joseph Pizzo, Bensalem Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo and Bensalem GOP Chairman Mike Brill to a Creekside conspiracy.

Republicans, however, argued that the apartment complex was simply too dangerous and parking was inadequate to continue hosting the polling place. They pointed to two letters (Bucks County Board of Elections Director Deena) Dean received in February 2007 that appeared to be from residents worried about the violence at Creekside.

But recent testimony and court documents show this seemingly routine polling place change was on high-ranking officials' minds as much as three years earlier.

Dean learned of officials' desire to move Creekside when Brill contacted her in 2004.

“He said that, you know, it was a Democrat poll ... and the other voters felt intimidated coming to that poll location,” she testified.
I know we’ve covered some of this before (notably here), but this is just a refresher (and the context of this is Dean fighting back against efforts by her fellow Repugs to let her “swing” over the Creekside mess).

Portnoy also tells us…

Dean came under increasing pressure as the Creekside controversy continued. On Sept. 18, 2008, she finally sent an e-mail to Democratic Commissioner Diane Marseglia, saying “they” tried to “intimidate me, confuse me and make me doubt myself.”

“They worked me over pretty good prior to meeting with Marc,” she wrote, referring to a deposition scheduled with Weinstein. When the e-mail surfaced, the judge granted an order prohibiting the county's attorneys from contacting Dean about Creekside.

She testified that during a pre-deposition meeting, assistant county solicitor Tina Mazaheri “screamed that "I better get the guilty look off my face.' ” Dean went on to testify Martin and Cawley “impeded (her from) doing her job in a fair, non-political way,” and she was “most afraid” of Sanko, whom she accused of two years of harassment.

Weinstein suggested there are other examples of intimidation that did not come out during the federal hearing.

“As far as the other stuff Deena Dean has been subjected to,” Weinstein said, “keep in mind it's not all out there yet.”
Lovely (and I really want to know how much all of these legal proceedings are costing us as Bucks County taxpayers, by the way).

The story also tells us that Dean was reprimanded by Martin, Cawley and Sanko for violating some procedure that apparently wasn’t documented anywhere.

Another thing we learn is just how far back Dean goes with Bucks and the Repugs…

Dean had worked in voter registration since 1978 and was groomed for the top spot, but she also volunteered at Republican headquarters in Doylestown and was treasurer of the county Young Republicans for less than a year. She remains a registered Republican.

At the time, then-commissioner Sandy Miller, a Democrat, said Dean was qualified, but the benefactor of patronage.

“This is a very sensitive position,” she said. “This individual is known to be political. All the political activity on her part must cease. I hope she will provide service to all Bucks Countians regardless of registration.”

Miller said Dean showed political favoritism at least once. In 1995, Dean asked her to recommend a Democrat who could temporarily help in the office so that both parties had representation, Miller said. Later, when it was revealed that Miller's pick was the sister-in-law of her campaign manager, John Galloway — now a state representative — Miller hoped Dean would come to her defense.

“Instead, she was mute,” said Miller, who later came to be closely associated with Cawley and Martin herself.

Miller opposed the move from Creekside a year ago, but recently she seemed to side with the GOP commissioners. The day after testimony ended in the federal hearing, Miller explained what she said was the real motivation for her “no” vote years ago.

“A major reason for me not voting for Deena is that I felt there were emotional and stability concerns. It was unspoken at the time,” Miller said, adding: “It was not at all unusual for her to be in tears over one issue or another.”
So let me get this straight – Miller doesn’t support Dean’s promotion to board of elections director in 1992 because she worked for the Repugs, so Dean doesn’t support Miller’s choice of a Dem to even out the representation in the elections office (which Dean must have ascended to in the meantime - ???), and now in response, Miller brings up what she perceives to be Dean’s “emotional and stability concerns” as a reason for her opposition to the Creekside move?

Here is what Dean’s attorney said in response…

(Dean’s attorney David) Truelove sprang to Dean's defense, calling Miller's comments “outrageous and scurrilous” and “the musings of an embittered political hack.”
I would tend to agree with that; even if somehow that stuff about Dean is true, it really doesn’t belong in the newspaper as far as I’m concerned, not on this matter anyway.

“She's not an emotional cripple,” (Truelove) said. “This is a lady who had a child who when she was very young had to deal with a very serious illness. To say she can't deal with this stuff because she's unstable first of all is a cheap shot and displays a tremendous amount of ignorance about county staff.”

Despite all this, he said, Dean has no plans to leave county government.

“I think she has every intention to stay on,” Truelove said. “I think she feels duty bound. This is almost like her calling. In this day and age, she's become someone's who's valued and well regarded in this field.”
I also seem to recall reading that Dean had a degree in either business or computer science and makes about $60-$70K working for county government, though I can’t confirm that at the moment. I think that shows some degree of dedication; after 30 years, she probably could have made better money in a corporate setting by now.

I want to emphasize, though, that I don’t believe her to be innocent in the Creekside mess, though she most definitely is a scapegoat.

And the story mentions at the end that Cawley and Martin have “lawyered up,” "(adding) to their defense two Philadelphia attorneys who specialize in civil rights."

And once more, I wonder aloud how much this is costing us (and somewhere, Jay Russell smiles).

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