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Commission won't pay for poll workers' lunches

July 29, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA.

charlestown@herald-mail.com

The issue over paying a $1,952 catering bill to feed 155 Jefferson County poll workers during a statewide election on June 25 was put to rest Thursday when the Jefferson County Commission said they would not reimburse Jefferson County Clerk Jennifer Maghan for the meals.

County Commission President Rusty Morgan, who made the motion to deny the reimbursement, said he wanted to deal with the matter because of the controversy it had generated and because it was counterproductive to the county.

"It's time to put it aside. I wanted to get the issue behind us," Morgan said.

Morgan, along with commission members Jane Tabb, Dale Manuel and Greg Corliss, voted to deny the reimbursement to Maghan. Commission member Jim Surkamp voted against the motion.

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Maghan, whose office oversees elections in the county, said she decided to offer lunch to the poll workers during a pension bond election because it is difficult for the workers to leave their stations and because they must be there for about 16 hours.

Maghan said poll workers told her they were glad food was served to them because they could have "passed out" otherwise.

Maghan said she paid the $1,952 catering bill with her own money, but wanted to be reimbursed for the meals from the county's voter registration fund.

Because he is the county's treasurer, Jefferson County Sheriff Everett "Ed" Boober told the Jefferson County Commissioners that he would have been required to sign the check.

But Boober said an official with the state auditor's office told him that the bill could not be paid with money from the voter registration fund.

Boober told the county commission he did not sign the check over the concern that he could be "party to something possibly illegal."

The lunch-reimbursement issue has generated controversy since Maghan hired Renaissance Refinishing of Frederick, Md., a firm owned by her brother-in-law, B. Randall Maghan, to provide the lunches.

Maghan said Thursday it is "a shame" she was not reimbursed. "But I can live with it," she said.

Maghan said she is anxious to get on with the work in her office without distractions. Maghan said she continues to get e-mails and phone calls of support from poll workers who appreciated the meals and offered to pay her for them.

Morgan said he believes Maghan did not realize that offering the meals was inappropriate, and added it was something Maghan "should have known but didn't make the proper inquiries."

Last week, Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Thompson said the Secretary of States office has a concern about food being delivered to poll workers.

Polling places should only be entered by election workers and voters, Thompson said, adding that polling places are practically a "sacred place."

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