Pa. Auditor General seeks ban on gifts, says ‘perks’ could sway officials

Pat Loeb
February 22, 2019 - 5:06 pm

Pat Loeb/KYW Newsradio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Pennsylvania's Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says election officials in 18 of the state's 67 counties accepted gifts from voting machine vendors, as they consider which machines to purchase in order to comply with a state mandate. He says he wants a ban on gifts to local officials, regardless of how small.  

DePasquale decided to leave no stone unturned after learning that officials in Luzerne County had received trips to Las Vegas from the vendor Election Systems & Software (ES&S).

He asked every county whether election officials had gotten trips or gifts. Bucks and Delaware Counties were among those who responded yes. Bucks listed an $8 folding chair and a ride on Pittsburgh's incline.

A Delaware County official says she was told after a cocktail party that a vendor had picked up the bar tab. DePasquale was not comforted by the piddling nature of the disclosures.

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“It doesn't matter if the gifts were large or small,” he said. “My problem is that anyone who accepted them could have been swayed by some of those perks.”

While most of the reported gifts were along the lines of donuts and coffee at sales pitches, Berks County officials did report several thousands of dollars in travel.

Officials from Cameron and Warren Counties reported rather lavish entertainment, including wine and distillery tours and a trip to an amusement park.

Philadelphia reported not even a small gift, yet DePasquale singled the city out for criticism.

He took issue with the bid process because, he said, it favored ES&S, who was eventually selected.

Philadelphia City Commission chair Lisa Deeley notes the bid was conducted by administration officials using the new "Best Value" model, a process adopted in order to make contract awards less prone to interference.

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She defends the choice as the "best decision for all of Philadelphia's over one-million voters."

Deeley says she worries DePasquale is undermining trust in the election process.

“I find it really troubling that an elected official would make such salacious allegations or inferences,” she said. “People already feel a level of distrust in the voting system and we're doing everything we can to build that trust up and give people back that feeling of integrity in elections. If he would like to say he has issues with the contract, that's fine. But when you inflate and make these unfounded assertions, all you're doing is further cracking away at that trust, and that's really upsetting."