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Macon election office assesses damage in emergency meeting

fr electionsAfter discovering $50,000 worth of unauthorized checks had disappeared from its budget and placing director Kim Bishop on paid investigatory leave, the Macon County Board of Elections is now trying to regain its footing.

 

The election board held an emergency meeting last Thursday to evaluate its financial situation and plan for the election season that kicks off this month, possibly while the director position still hangs in limbo. 

Whether the board fires Bishop depends on the outcome of a State Bureau of Investigations probe into embezzlement allegations, chairman Luke Bateman said. Since the investigation isn’t conclusive yet, Bishop remains on the county payroll, even though she was put on leave.

“At this point, we have not made any changes to her situation, but that is always subject to change, depending on how the investigation goes,” he said. 

In the meantime, the election board will hire part-time help to aid the remaining two elections office employees.

The extra salary load — paying for part-time help while still paying Bishop, too — will put a drain on their budget.

Further, it’s still reeling from the shortfall created by the $50,000 in question. 

At its Jan. 30 meeting, the board determined that it is only about $20,000 shy of where it should be at this point in the fiscal year, but some various outstanding bills yet to be paid could put the budget shortfall closer to $40,000.

Depending on how many candidates sign up to run in state and local elections this season, the board could recoup some of that money, but Bateman expects the effect will be minimal. Candidates pay a registration fee of 1 percent of the base annual salary of the position they are running for, so that revenue stream varies heavily depending on how many people run and for which offices. 

“There’s no way for us to know how much will come in off of these,” Bateman said. “It’s very tough to predict.”

Nevertheless, deputy election director Debbie George said the organization should be able to squeak through the May primary until the end of the fiscal year on June 30. 

“This could have been a lot worse, so $20,000 or thereabouts is not bad,” board member Gary Dills said. 

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