Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The former deputy elections director for Richland County says he's outraged by comments made about his performance on the job by the fired elections director.
Garry Baum issued a lengthy statement late Monday refuting the allegations made last week by Howard Jackson.
Jackson was fired by the Richland County Elections Board last Monday after just eight months as the county elections chief. A day later, he held a news conference sharply criticizing the board, accusing them of meddling in personnel decisions and trying to dictate the director of the office. He spoke to the State Law Enforcement Division about his claims, and agents are reviewing with the solicitor's office documents he provided and statements he made to determine if there will be an investigation.
But Jackson, while not mentioning Baum by name, also said that the deputy director made errors on the job. Jackson said Baum didn't properly charge some of the voting machines, which led to problems during the 2013 general elections.
Baum, though, says he's had 23 years of experience at the state and local level in elections, and wouldn't have made such a mistake.
"My staff and I have made it one of the training priorities to teach clerks and poll managers the importance of plugging in the voting booth to a working outlet and making sure the power source plug, commonly referred to as the 'pigtail' was plugged in to the voting machine," Baum said in the statement. "In every one of my hundreds of in-person training classes across the state and in the County, as well as years of training power point presentations provided to over 20,000 poll workers, it is documented in the importance of these electrical connections. To insinuate that I would intentionally leave voting machines or the pigtails unplugged in any election in incorrect."
Baum said that in early 2013, before Jackson was hired, he helped conduct two elections with no problems.
Jackson also suggested in his remarks that board members told him that if he fired Baum, it would be a bad political move, since Baum is the brother-in-law of State Senator Joel Lourie. But Baum said that when he joined the county elections agency, Lourie agreed not to have any involvement with the board.
Lourie himself told News19 he had no involvement in the board' decisions, including personnel matters.
Baum left the agency last year after he says he was asked to involuntarily resign. He said he's talking with lawyers about what to do regarding Jackson's comments.
Here is Baum's full statement:
Referencing employment with the Richland County (County), SC Elections and Voter Registration office and comments by the previous director:
With over 23 years of experience within the county, state, and federal election community, I have worked to obtain a reputation of knowledge, honesty, and fairness. Most any of the thousands of people who I have worked with will attest to this. Recent allegations against me by the recently fired County director, who I worked with for three months, have given me cause to state correct and factual information about four items.
1. In reference to my involvement in the November 6, 2012 election:
In 2011 when I was working at the State Election Commission, I was recruited by the previous county director to become the Deputy Director. My main requirements, when hired, were to handle the election process to include working with candidates, train poll workers, and provide for a proper election process at the polls according to all state laws and procedures. Seven elections, including all County municipal elections and a June primary and runoff, were conducted with no issues. The November 6, 2012 election, as previously reported multiple times by multiple media, and investigated and determined by the Hamm Report, was a debacle. Insufficient voting machines and non-working machines were the main cause of the numerous issues. My direct staff and I worked in this election on training the clerks and poll managers and preparing the polling places. As Deputy Director at the time, I took responsibility for this election, and the areas we worked diligently on. I was not involved in the machine allocation or preparation. To insinuate otherwise is incorrect.
2. In reference to me unplugging voting machines to cause problems with upcoming elections:
Since 2004 when the State purchase the iVotronic voting machines, my staff and I have made it one of the training priorities to teach clerks and poll managers the importance of plugging in the voting booth to a working outlet and making sure the power source plug, commonly referred to as the "pigtail" was plugged in to the voting machine. With these two electrical connections, the voting machine can operate on electricity and can continue to charge the voting machine battery in case of an electrical outage or use of the machine for curbside voting. In every one of my hundreds of in-person training classes across the state and in the County, as well as years of training power point presentations provided to over 20,000 poll workers, it is documented in the importance of these electrical connections. To insinuate that I would intentionally leave voting machines or the pigtails unplugged in any election in incorrect.
3. In reference to any involvement of Senator Joel Lourie, my brother-in-law, with respect to the Richland County Election and Voter Registration Board's decisions:
Prior to my County hire, I discussed this issue with Joel. We agreed that from day one of my hire, he would not be involved in any activity of the Board or personnel matters of the office other than his duties as a member of the County Legislative Delegation. With my hire, this was more of a reason for his noninvolvement. I am not aware of any time that Joel had any communication with the Board, any of the directors, or staff. To insinuate that Joel had had communication with the Board is incorrect. To insinuate that the director was fired due to my forced involuntary resignation of my duties is incorrect.
4. In reference to my not knowing my job as Deputy Director of Elections:
When I was placed in this position in January, 2013, an interim director was hired. The staff, under my election supervision, conducted two quality elections with no issues. As with any new position, there usually are duties that must be learned. I did not know the Unity software which is used to prepare a portion of the voting process. As a manager, I relied on a 20+ year state and county election staff professional with Unity knowledge to prepare the Unity software for all elections. In testing for the 2013 City of Columbia and Town of Blythewood database, an error was not detected. This error was since detected, and a correct database was available two days later. This correct database was used to prepare these elections. I was in the process of learning Unity when I was asked to involuntarily resign. I was knowledgeable with the election process as can be attested to by most any of the 46 South Carolina election directors or hundreds of other statewide election professionals whom I have had the pleasure to work with. To insinuate otherwise would be incorrect.
I take all of these matters very personally, as I have given over 23 years of my career to conduct fair and honest elections. I am outraged by the recently fired director's allegations. I am in consultation with attorneys about these comments.