Taxpayers Pick-up Election Commissioners BIG Bills
May Bill For Postage Is Over $150,000
Dave Phipps' office has spent nearly $200,000 in postage alone for the primary election. So much money he has asked the county for $50,000 more just to keep paying his big bills. Video by kmtv.comvideo
Omaha, NE -- He closed polling places in order to save money, but after a series of unplanned mailings the bill is in. Tens of thousands of dollars -- just for postage! The amount stunned the county commissioners. The Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps said by closing half the voting sites taxpayers would save $115,000 dollars, but voter confusion now has him breaking the budget. It's a story we have been on top of since the beginning.
Dave Phipps' office has spent nearly $200,000 in postage alone for the primary election. So much money he has asked the county for $50,000 more just to keep paying his big bills.
Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps' May bill to the county is a big one. County Board Commissioner Pam Tusa said, "I was surprised by the amount because it was a little more than I thought."
"A bill of that magnitude gets brought to my attention," stated Douglas County Board Budget and Finance Director Joe Lorenz.
Phipps receipts for postage alone is more than $152,000. "When the alert came in we had this $152,000 bill I looked at it and I realized it was due to the supplemental mailing that he had to do."
The Election Commissioner said he chose to close half the counties polling places as a way to save money. His decision created serious voter confusion, especially in north Omaha's District 2. Early in April, Ella Willis came to the election office to tell Dave Phipps there was a big problem. "So many people is confused on where to go to vote," said Willis.
2,000 voters in District 2 were told to vote at a polling place that had been closed. To correct his mistake, Phipps mailed out three letters plus new polling information cards to all those voters.
The voter confusion ran county-wide, so Phipps also mailed out over 300,000 early voting forms to all registered voters. In March, he admitted no money would be saved. "You know I would imagine it's probably going to eat up any of the savings that we had anticipated," said the election commissioner.
Racking up the postage bills didn't stop there, more than 15,000 voters requested a early ballot. The cost to mail just one ballot is $1.10. If you do the math it's over $16,000.
When it came time to mail in those ballots, you let KMTV Action 3 News know the Election Commissioner printed return postage would only be 90-cents. It actually cost $1.10. For those people who didn't pay the correct postage, the U.S. Post Office sent Dave Phipps the bill.
Douglas County Board Commissioner Mary Ann Borgeson said, "My understanding is he just said if the post office sends them to him he's not going to pay them."
Commissioner Tusa added, "The constituents in the long run are still going to have to pay the 100-plus, $150,000 no matter which way it comes out."
It's thousands of dollars in bills from the election office that county taxpayers are left to pick up for one mans mistakes.
Dave Phipps has asked for roughly $500,000 more for next years budget. County Board members said "no" we'll give you part of that, but the exact dollar amount has yet to be finalized and voted on.
Reported By: Liz Dorland, firstname.lastname@example.org