Judging the Judge
At the beginning of the July 28th open board meeting, President Alex Leslie made a somewhat cryptic reference to a previous candidate who ran for the board while not a member. He did not say who that was, or when or why it happened. He did, however, admit that mistakes had been made and that the board would do whatever they could to make sure that this would not happen again. But there are some very relevant details that he and other board members left out, that we think you need to know.
By assuming that this must have happened in recent years, (or Mr. Leslie probably wouldn’t have mentioned it at all) and knowing who has run for the board, all one has to do is check into Monroe County public records to figure out who is not (or was not) a member. According to property records, we now know that this candidate was the late Barbara DeGeorge. The records show that Barbara DeGeorge ‘sold’ her property to her son Joseph DeGeorge on May 12, 2005 for the sum of $1. From that day forward, she was no longer an eligible voting member or candidate for any association office.
Nevertheless, Barbara ran for the board in both 2009 and 2011. In 2011, even while she planned on running from the floor later in that same meeting, she acted as a registrant, registering voters and handling ballots before the meeting began, and all of this occurred under the watchful eye of her friend, her running mate (though they had not told anyone else this part yet), and Judge of Elections, Carmen Broadnax.
If there is one quality a Judge of Elections must bring to the table it is absolute impartiality. There can be no compromise with this. It is an attribute necessary for any member of a Nominations Committee or an Election Committee. And it is not enough to have a technical impartiality; it must be one of the spirit as well as action. A person in any of these positions must be especially careful to avoid giving any electoral advantage to a candidate or candidates. When it comes time to vote, they can legitimately choose one candidate over the others, but not one moment sooner. Does Emerald Lakes’ current Judge of Elections Carmen Broadnax meet this requirement? Let’s have a look at the record.
During the late Winter of 2009, GM Gil Werner was having problems with the swim coach. There were disagreements over exclusive indoor pool use and travel and other expenses. As the GM was preparing to call the coach on the carpet, as they say, he received an email from Carmen informing him that she was now the Administrative Assistant to the coach and all future correspondence should go through her. Of course, Mr. Werner rejected any notion that a member could come between him and one of his employees, but the relationship between the coach and Ms. Broadnax was clearly established.
As the Winter became Spring, Ms. Broadnax was confirmed as Chairperson of the Nominations Committee. Four candidates signed the intent to run/agreement to serve forms. They were: Millie Bishop, Barbara DeGeorge, George Haab and Joseph Olall.
To celebrate the season, the swimmers and coach planned an end-of-season banquet to which the swimmers and their parents were invited. Only two of the candidates for the board, Barbara DeGeorge and Joseph Olall, were invited to address the parents, both known to be friends and associates of the chair of the Nominations Committee. Mr. Haab and Ms. Bishop were not informed of the occasion. As chairperson of the Nominations committee, was this the way to “avoid giving any electoral advantage to a candidate”? Or was this a case of a chairperson’s bias informing her actions? Or was it just a coincidence?
At an early August board workshop last year (2011) the board of directors secretary Louise Leon, pointing to the fact that her husband had declared himself a candidate for the board, recused herself from the position of Judge of Elections, citing the obvious conflict of interest. I was present at that meeting and, over my objection, Carmen Broadnax was appointed as the replacement for Louise. At that time, Pat Galderisi turned to Carmen and asked her point blank, “Do you have any intention of running for the board?” Carmen’s answer was an unambiguous, “No.”
What happened at the 2011 Annual Meeting is now common knowledge. From 9:30 to 11 am, as Judge of Elections, Carmen and Barbara DeGeorge (along with others) were supposed to determine who was and who was not eligible to vote and hand ballots to confirmed voters. Carmen was also charged with examining the bids from those members who had decided to run, checking to see that they had met the necessary requirements before being approved for placement on the ballots. Remember, we already know that Barbara was not eligible to vote at that time, and that she was not eligible to run for the board. And yet she did both, under Carmen Broadnax’s watch.
Shortly after 11 am, Carmen informed the assembly that she was resigning as the Judge of Elections to ‘run from the floor.’ Then, before she sat down, she used her position as judge to address the assembly for more than 7 minutes, explaining why she felt the call to duty. Before she sat down, she then, astonishingly, appointed her own successor. Vice President Millie Bishop, acting as chair in President George Haab’s absence, made no objection. And as her final act, Carmen selected the volunteers who would count the votes in an election in which she was now a candidate, even though, by this time, she had officially resigned.
Later, during her 5-minute candidate’s address to the assembly, Carmen cited Barbara DeGeorge and Diane Caldwell, both also running from the floor, as her running mates. While all other candidates were limited to 5 minutes to address the membership, Ms. Broadnax managed over 12 in her two speeches.
When the matter of Ms. DeGeorge’s eligibility came to light in recent weeks, President Alex Leslie presumably decided that the matter was confidential, as no public discussion was held at the workshop meeting. At any rate, apparently the majority of the members of the board decided that nothing would be done and that Carmen would remain as Judge of Elections at this year’s annual meeting. Board member Robert Lauri, out of town on vacation, was not informed of any of this. However, from other sources, he did receive notice of the records showing the sale of Ms. DeGeorge’s house in 2005. From thousands of miles away, he began investigating these claims, which were eventually confirmed by Mr. Leslie. Mr. Lauri tells us that he was very uncomfortable with the board’s plan to sweep these facts under the rug, and that he spoke to Director Joe Miller, who agrees with these sentiments. They both asked Mr. Leslie to discuss this matter at the July 28th open meeting, so the membership could decide what actions they felt needed to be taken. Unfortunately, Mr. Leslie’s vague references to “mistakes” did not really make clear the extent of the problem, and so, these two board members are supportive of our efforts to keep the community informed.
What all this means is up to the reader. Do Carmen’s biases inform her actions and decisions? Was there venality here or just sloppiness? Did Carmen know that friend and running mate Barbara DeGeorge was not a member of the association? Should she, as Judge of Elections, have allowed Ms. DeGeorge to act as a registrant? Given her failures in this matter, should she hold the position again this year? And should our Judge of Elections be, as the saying goes, “Purer than Caesar’s wife?” Psychologists like to say that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. On that score, Ms. Broadnax just might have “some ‘splainin’ to do.”