Official’s ties to voting machine vendor prompt statewide inquiry
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced Wednesday that his office will launch a statewide investigation into how counties select voting machines and equipment, based on what he called the “outrageous” case of Luzerne County elections director Marisa Crispell and a “junket” she took to Las Vegas — paid for by county vendor Election Systems & Software last year.
Luzerne County purchased voting machines from ES&S in 2006 and earlier this year purchased an electronic poll book system from the company for about $325,000.
DePasquale, speaking in Olyphant at a news conference, said he learned Saturday that Crispell served on the ES&S customer advisory board last year and traveled to advisory board meetings in Las Vegas and Nebraska, for which ES&S paid her travel and lodging expenses.
“Outrage does not begin to describe how ticked off I was,” he said.
DePasquale focused on the trip to Las Vegas in March 2017.
“The idea that any public official in Pennsylvania would go to Vegas for a junket for a company they are helping get taxpayer dollars for, let alone for elections, is a disgrace,” he said.
DePasquale said he wants to find out what Crispell did while in Las Vegas.
He also said he wants to know if election officials in other Pennsylvania counties have similar close ties to vendors, which he called “unacceptable.”
“We are launching an investigation to … review the entire procurement process on how these machines are selected,” he said, adding later that “Having any vendor pay for a junket is unacceptable.”
DePasquale said he plans to question Crispell directly, and also might want to talk to other county officials.
Crispell has said she resigned from the ES&S advisory board in October 2017, before the county requested proposals for the poll book system from vendors. She did not disclose her service on the advisory board to county council before council voted to purchase the poll books from ES&S in April 2018. Council members have complained about the lack of disclosure.
Crispell says she did not feel it necessary to disclose her prior advisory board role to council, since she informed the county elections board, its solicitor Michael Butera and county Director of Administrative Services David Parsnik, none of whom objected.
DePasquale on Wednesday said that even had Crispell provided full disclosure, her service on the advisory board of a county vendor was improper.
“I don’t care if she put it on Twitter and Facebook and held a press conference,” he said. “The whole system that allowed it is wrong.”
DePasquale said if Crispell’s supervisors knew of and approved her expenses-paid trips to ES&S advisory board meetings, he “will have some tough questions for them.”
Crispell did not immediately return messages seeking comment.