Former mayors and other Charlottesville community leaders released an open letter Wednesday which demanded City Registrar Sheri Iachetta be put on administrative leave and called for the immediate resignation of members of the local Electoral Board.
In September, Virginia charged Iachetta with multiple felony charges for misuse of public funds for allegedly paying the cell phone bills of former Electoral Board member Stephanie Commander.
The leaders, including both Democratic and Republican committee chairs, sent the letter after the Charlottesville Electoral Board announced Oct. 17 it would not take action on the issue.
Former Charlottesville mayor Tom Vandever said he supported these demands because he did not think the Board’s actions adequately addressed the issue or followed City protocol.
“The office of the Registrar comes under the Charlottesville City Personnel policies, and those policies are very clear in these situations where there has been misappropriations of funds or embezzlement,” Vandever said. “The remedy would have been to immediately place that employee on administrative leave pending a full investigation, and they didn’t do that.”
Electoral Board member Rick Sincere said the board is taking the concerns into account.
“What they say is very important to us and we want to pay attention to them,” Sincere said.
Pam DeGuzman, co-chair of the Charlottesville Democratic Committee, also signed the letter. She said the Electoral Board has failed in its duties. DeGuzman and Vandever both said they thought the incident created a widespread loss of trust.
“Several people have come out privately and publicly to say that they have lost trust,” DeGuzman said.
Sincere said he does not think the public has lost faith in the voting system, but he said Charlottesville voters are concerned about whether they will have to stand in line and if their votes will be counted.
“And as far as I can tell, Charlottesville voters have confidence that the answer to the first question is no, that lines will be short on Election Day,” Sincere said. “Yes, their votes will be counted.”
“Several people have come out privately
and publicly to say that they have lost trust.”
If Iachetta is not put on administrative leave and if the Electoral Board members do not resign, Vandever said the next step may be appealing to the circuit court. In Virginia, electoral circuit courts appoint electoral boards after receiving recommendations from various parties. Vandever said the party committees or the public can appeal to the circuit court to remove members of the Electoral Board.
DeGuzman, who signed as the co-chair of the Charlottesville Democratic Committee, said it will likely come to an appeal, most likely from the committee.
“I think that the committee would be most appropriate because the Electoral Board is made up of three members, two of whom are selected by the Democratic Party when we have a Democratic governor,” DeGuzman said.
Republican Committee Chair Barbara Null also signed the letter to the Electoral Board.
Vandever and DeGuzman said the loss of public trust in a voting official could undermine fundamental parts of the political process, though neither thinks this will affect next week’s elections.
“One of the issues is that one of our most precious, cherished institutions in a democracy is the concept that we have fair elections, and that we have people of the highest integrity running those elections,” Vandever said. “Anytime that you impugn that, then you really strike at a core virtue of it.”
The Office of the Registrar in Charlottesville declined to comment.