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It's Not Chump Change

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

Most of us have been working people all our lives. Our financial decisions are guided by common sense and good judgment; that’s what we expect from our elected officials, too. When our tax money is squandered, we get upset. When we are subjected to interference with the elections process, we get angry.

This is why we’re peeved about the costly elections-related tussles in Cochise County: failed attempts to conduct an illegal 100% hand count of ballots; a lawsuit filed by Supervisors to compel our Elections Director to break the law; the intentional delay of certification of election results; and the transfer of virtually all election duties to our extremely partisan Recorder. These ill-conceived efforts have cost Cochise County taxpayers well over $300,000 and include attorneys’ fees, security costs, and staff time diverted to handling five lawsuits over the course of five months. Seriously?

The absurdity of hand counting all ballots is obvious—it is expensive, time consuming, and inaccurate. After conducting Maricopa County’s five-month audit, Cyber Ninjas’ CEO Doug Logan admitted, “Our numbers are screwy." In Cochise County, Supervisors Tom Crosby and Peggy were undeterred by the court order to stop them—they sued the Elections Director Lisa Marra to accomplish their objective but retracted the lawsuit just two days later. Done on the sly (without the third supervisor’s knowledge or input) this prompted multiple Open Meeting Law complaints. What followed was the expensive replacement of Director Marra, which also has us roiled.

With full appointing authority, Recorder David Stevens was solely responsible for hiring our new Elections Director. He dipped into the taxpayer piggy bank and offered Mr. Bartelsmeyer a whopping $95,000/year salary—almost $4000 more than the maximum pay advertised in the county’s job announcement. The offer included full benefits and an additional (rare) $10,000 relocation budget which was not included in the posting. As far as we can tell, no other Elections Dept. employee had been offered reimbursement of relocation expenses in the past. Sheesh!

Mr. Stevens apparently did not bother to check the most basic element of any job application; the candidate’s listed dates of employment. He ignored several other warning signs as well.

Mr. Bartelsmeyer’s application indicated that he was employed by Doña Ana County, NM from 8/2009 to 6/2010. In reality, he left in late April, not June as he stated. By itself this might have been an oversight or memory problem, but he left right before New Mexico's primary election in 6/2010—one that would have been his responsibility to administer. So why the sudden departure?

Other red flags:

· He did not want Cochise County to contact any previous employers for the last 19 years.

· His elections-related experience for the past 20 years consists of jobs in four different counties in three different states, working at each job for less than two years (average = 14 months).

· There are unexplained gaps in his employment record: 2010 - 2022 and 2004 - 2007

· He attended 2 universities over the course of 8 years (1975 - 1983) but never graduated. Historically, the Elections Director position has required a bachelor’s degree

· He does not possess an Arizona Election Officer Certification (as required by the state).

· His last AZ Election Officials Training Certificate expired 12/2005.

In order to clarify the hiring process and allay concerns, we sent well-documented emails to county officials and submitted public record requests for information on or an investigation of the hiring process of Mr. Bartelsmeyer. These inquiries yielded nothing. Recorder David Stevens, County Administrator Richard Karwaczka, County Attorney Brian McIntyre, and former Human Resources Director Elda Orduño (who has since left her post) were all contacted but zero substantive responses were offered.

Is this a cover-up? Incompetence? Who granted Mr. Stevens the permission to give away our money—more money than the county advertised? Did Mr. Stevens put himself above the process? These are questions that shouldn’t have to be asked of a sensible and transparent government.

Free, fair, and secure elections are the backbone of democracy. Anybody caught fiddling with the process should at the very least be investigated, if not removed from their job and prosecuted for malfeasance.

Some of the players in the aforementioned who did not hesitate to dip into taxpayer funds for personal politics are running for office in 2024: David Stevens is seeking re-election as Recorder and Tom Crosby is running for re-election as District 1 Supervisor. Other candidates did not deign to answer our emails: Rich Karwaczka is running for Superior Court Judge; Brian McIntyre is running for re-election as County Attorney; and again, David Stevens is hoping to keep his position as Recorder. Are these really the kind of leaders we want running our county?

781 words

Authors: Fred Miller, Ali Morse

Fred Miller, resident Bisbee Contact:

Ali Morse, resident, Portal


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