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Supervisor will not apologize

A public dispute between members of the Charlotte County Electoral Board and a member of the Board of Supervisors during December’s meeting has sparked a request for a public apology.

During the Board of Supervisors (BOS) Monday, Jan. 11, meeting, Electoral Board Vice-Chairman Lawrence Clark sought an apology from Supervisor Kay Pierantoni, who he said made incorrect and untrue statements.

Kay Pierantoni

“I am upset about the last meeting I was at and statements that were made that were not correct,” Clark said. “Mrs. Pierantoni made untrue and not correct statements in public, and she assumed that we did something illegal, and I am here to hear an apology for making that statement.”

Following Clark’s address to the BOS, there was complete silence. Neither Pierantoni nor any other supervisor commented.

In an email Tuesday, Jan. 12, Pierantoni said she would not apologize to Clark as she was looking out for the county’s citizens.

The original disagreement arose when it came time to approve the county’s monthly invoices for payment during the Monday, Dec. 14, meeting. Pierantoni questioned the Electoral Board’s use of CARES funding and the amounts of bonuses paid to board members while she said they overlooked poll workers.

In October, the Center for Tech and Civic Life awarded Charlotte County a $20,000 grant to plan and execute a safe and secure election.

Interim General Registrar Eric Goode said, with the grant, the Electoral Board voted to pay poll workers an additional $50 as hazardous pay. The chief officer of the election received an additional $60.

According to Goode, the Electoral Board also approved a pay increase from $8 per hour to $11 per hour for the chief and $10 per hour for officers working the early voting precinct.

At the end of November, Goode informed the board that he had received notice from the Department of Elections that monies allocated to the registrar through the CARES Act could be used to make hazardous working conditions payments to registrars, registrar office staffs, and board members. 

At a Nov. 25 meeting of the Electoral Board, Goode suggested disbursement based on relative exposure by each of the groups included in the notice.

The funds were effective July 1.

Goode suggested he would receive $3,000 based on exposure from July 1 until Nov. 25. His staff would receive $10,300 calculated from their first day of employment until Nov. 25. The former registrar would receive $1,800 for service from July 1 to Aug. 31 and consultations beginning on Oct. 5, amounting to $1,200. Board members would receive $750 each based on the days they were exposed from July 1 to Nov. 25.

Clark and Pierantoni began a back-and-forth discussion often heated at times during the December meeting.

“I think that’s outrageous,” Pierantoni said. “The poll workers were the ones that were really out there, and you only went up to $10 an hour?”

“First of all, we didn’t even know that this money would be available,” Clark replied, “We only learned about this the day before Thanksgiving. Therefore, we gave the poll workers their money before we even knew about this. You are acting like we are giving out money just any kind of way, and it’s not like that,”

Clark ended the December discussion by saying he resented he was being made out to seem like he was taking something and doing something wrong.

On Tuesday, Pierantoni said she did not respond to Clark’s request for several reasons.

“First, I would ask anyone to listen to the conversation of the December board meeting of which he is referencing. It is at the end of the meeting,” she said, “I did not accuse anyone of theft. Secondly, through emails since that meeting, I have explained my role on which Mr. Clark was copied.”

Pierantoni said the Board of Supervisors’ main task involves fiscal management for the county. ““Supervisors are the group that has oversight of budgets of the various departments within the county and set the tax levy to raise the funds necessary to meet those budgets.” she said. “If we determine there are problems within the year, I believe we are to speak up. Particularly on the CARES funding, there were strict guidelines. If it is deemed the funds were not spent in accordance with those guidelines, the county will need to pay back those funds. Where would we get that money? Where do we get our funds?”

Pierantoni said the funds would have to come from the taxpayers.

The BOS does not regulate what the Electoral Board or the voter registrar does. State agencies govern those officials.