At a hastily called special meeting Tuesday afternoon, county commissioners approved an injection of cash to the elections office to ensure it could make payroll this month.
In a highly unusual move, Chairman Smokey Parrish called for a break during Tuesday morning’s regular meeting so commissioners could meet individually with Assistant Finance Officer Erin Griffith and County Attorney Michael Shuler.
After the brief conferences, County Coordinator Michael Morón told the public meeting that there was a shortfall in the finances of the elections office, and commissioners voted unanimously to hold a special meeting after lunch to discuss the situation.
Supervisor of Elections Pinki Jackel appeared with elections bookkeeper Bonnie Meyer to explain the situation. They provided commissioners with copies of the elections office expenditures for the last quarter.
“We have a cash flow situation,” Jackel said. “It was a bookkeeping error. I take full responsibility. I became aware of the situation today and wanted to let you know as soon as possible. It was convenient that you were meeting.
“We are a business. It is important to let the taxpayers know what is going on,” she said.
She told commissioners the Nov. 8 presidential election drew the largest turnout of voters in county history, necessitating extended hours for early voting and more poll workers both during early voting and on the day of the election. This significantly increased payroll for November, with the entire election costing $28,000.
With a voter turnout of 84.6 percent, Franklin County had the second highest voter participation of any Florida county. Speaking after the special meeting, Jackel said that during early voting upwards of 300 people a day voted.
Jackel also told commissioners some bills had been paid forward. “In retrospect, I could have waited on some of the items we paid,” she said.
Jackel said Meyer believed the elections office would receive a cash draw in December, but in fact such payment will not come until the beginning of the new quarter in January.
Jackel asked for a $27,000 advance from the money budgeted for the elections office for 2017 to make her December payroll, and said an additional $54,000 would be needed in January. She said the shortfall will not effect the operation of the elections over the rest of the year and that there were no outstanding bills other than the salaries of the elections staff.
She said because she had lost her bid for election as supervisor of elections, she was making an “effort to swab the deck and have everything tied up for the incoming supervisor” and that she wanted to be prepared for an end of the year audit.
Commissioner Cheryl Sanders asked if there would be city elections in 2017. Jackel said there would be, but that the cities reimburse the elections office so no additional expense would be incurred.