Volkmer: Cavanaugh’s elections allegations Unfounded

VIA PINALCENTRAL, MARK COWLING| April 4th, 2024

FLORENCE — Allegations of financial and other wrongdoing within the Pinal Elections Department have been investigated and are unfounded, Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer told the Board of Supervisors.
“Every allegation that should give this board grave concern was investigated and Dana (Lewis, Pinal County recorder) was unequivocally cleared of those,” said Volkmer.
The board already had this information, but the public continues to demand answers, Volkmer said.
“That’s why I thought this meeting was so important so we could clear the air once and for all,” he said. Lewis runs elections under a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, with the board. The board began Wednesday’s meeting by voting to waive its attorney-client confidentiality to allow Volkmer to publicly report his conclusions.
“The vast majority of these anonymous emails appear to be from a disgruntled employee who does not care for Ms. Lewis. And quite frankly it looks like they were very much a supporter of (previous elections director) Geri Roll, and everything Geri did was great; everything that Dana did was wrong,” Volkmer told the board.
The allegations were contained in anonymous emails to Supervisor Kevin Cavanaugh, R-Coolidge, or his staff, beginning in December. Several of those emails were attached to a notice of claim Cavanaugh filed against Pinal last month seeking $456,000 in damages for harm to his reputation and removal of Lewis as elections director.
Cavanaugh, who was out of the country for a death in the family, wasn’t present for Volkmer’s presentation but joined the meeting later by phone. He commented by phone to PinalCentral that he wasn’t satisfied, and no one should have to sue to force the county attorney to do a proper investigation of an internal matter.
“The county attorney did not interview the key witness in this whole situation, before I filed the notice of claim or since. … Pinal County is a tapestry of corruption and mismanagement,” said Cavanaugh, who is a candidate for sheriff. “When I’m elected, for the mere fact that I’m there, much of the nonsense will stop.”
Volkmer said he learned in mid-January of an allegation that Lewis was using her county procurement card, or “p-card,” for inappropriate non-government purchases. The investigation began the next day into every single p-card purchase by the Elections Department and Lewis.
“I will tell the board that there were no inappropriate uses of the p-card,” Volkmer said. He said he emailed Cavanaugh to update him and ask if there was anything else he needed to be aware of. Cavanaugh replied with an email critical of the investigation, saying Volkmer should have found the anonymous informant and interviewed them first, Volkmer said.
“I was then informed there were additional issues,” and Cavanaugh forwarded other anonymous emails,” Volkmer said. Because the board was to consider on Feb. 7 whether to renew the MOU with Lewis, “there was a need to get this done quickly.”
Volkmer said the allegations fell into three main categories — management critiques, criminal actions and election integrity issues. He said the first category isn’t something his office does.
Criminal allegations included a mixing of county and campaign funds and other misappropriation of funds.
“Those were fully investigated,” Volkmer said. Lewis was interviewed at least three times “and there were absolutely no misappropriations of funds that were identified. … There was no substantiation to the allegation that she used county taxpayer dollars to help her campaign in any way, shape or form.”
As for election integrity, the allegation was that Lewis was using equipment she knew to be faulty. The vendor, ES&S, reportedly admitted its machines didn’t work properly.
“I can tell you we spoke with multiple people who were present on that day and there is not one person that corroborates that statement,” Volkmer said. The closest was a concession that “‘Our machines are not infallible because humans operate them.’ … So ES&S went out of their way to actually train us on the proper way to administer and use those machines,” Volkmer said.
Cavanaugh commented by phone Wednesday that there were signs of trouble with machines in the 2022 election.
“Now we have this whistleblower who gives us an alleged number, a few votes out of every thousand. Wouldn’t it be really important to talk to that person?” Cavanaugh asked. “And it can only be one person — it is the person who was responsible for checking the locks on the ballot boxes. A disgruntled employee wouldn’t make that up.
“… The bottom line is the county attorney’s investigation was insufficient to start with. Had it been sufficient, I wouldn’t have needed to file this notice of claim. We would have known truth in private,” Cavanaugh said. He said the county attorney’s “failures” triggered his notice of claim and others that don’t get published. “We have spreadsheets of claims,” he said.
Volkmer and Chief Civil Deputy County Attorney Chris Keller told the board the county’s insurance carrier has the biggest say in handling Cavanaugh’s claim, but the board could choose to pay it, deny it or allow it to run its course. In 60 days it would be “deemed denied” and Cavanaugh would have 180 days to sue.
“Unless (a suit) is filed, this will be effectively hanging over the head of the board and the county until about Thanksgiving,” Volkmer said.
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ken zebal
Ken Zebal
1 month ago

IMHO anonymous emails, letters etc., are junk mail and not actionable. They get signed with contact info or they go to the trash/thnx/kwz

Gloria Wolf
BiggG
1 month ago
Reply to  Ken Zebal

I agree Ken. Stand up and say what you think is true and don’t hide behind anonymity.