The Sierra Club’s national headquarters announced on Wednesday it would not be considering the ballots cast in the ongoing recount election for the Los Padres Chapter of the Sierra Club, citing significant voting irregularities that could change the outcome of the election.
“The ballots will not be counted because there is no purpose in declaring winners and losers in an invalid election,” wrote Greg Casini of the national Sierra Club. The deadline for submitting mail-in ballots was June 25 for the recount election, which was initiated after the national Sierra Club invalidated the results of last December’s race for the Los Padres board in which more than 40 percent of the ballots cast were deemed questionable.
In addition, Casini stated in an email communication that he was recommending to the national board of directors that the Los Padres chapter be suspended for four years. The national board has yet to act on that recommendation.
According to Casini, enough questionable new ballots had been received for the recount election “to materially impact the outcome of the election and that the integrity of this election has already been severely compromised.” The bulk of those, said Casini, are related to the Sespe Group of the Los Padres Chapter. Likewise, in the December election, candidates supported by activists from the Sespe Group benefited by the questionable ballots cast. Sespe activists have been focused on efforts to protect Ormond Beach and, for the past four years, the Sierra Club has paid an outspoken Sespe leader, Al Sanders, $30,000 a year to agitate and organize on behalf of Ormond Beach restoration efforts. In recent months, Sanders’ pay has become an issue of considerable controversy; twice in the past seven months, the Los Padres board has taken action to discontinue Sanders’ pay.
Among the latest voting irregularities, Casini said he was troubled by the fact that 53 new joint voting memberships had been purchased since January by members of the Sespe Group. A joint membership - typically for a husband and wife - counts for two votes, not just one. Casini noted that no group memberships had been purchased by anyone in the Sespe Group in the prior seven months, and only three had been purchased elsewhere throughout the Los Padres Chapter. One address alone had six joint memberships, meaning it possessed 12 ballots. Sixteen addresses have multiple memberships for a total of 89 votes. Of those, all but one had been secured by someone in the Sespe Group.
With the recount invalidated, Casini said current members of the Los Padres Executive Committee could remain. (For more background on this dispute, see the June 18 Angry Poodle Barbecue, headlined “Bark Not, Want Not.”)