Emery County clerk takes back his resignation

Published March 29, 2006 12:19 am
Now what? But the feud over election machines heats up, and commissioners say the clerk is out of a job
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The state's $27 million transition to touch-screen voting machines has triggered an ugly dispute between the Emery County Commission and its elections chief.

The commissioners maintain that County Clerk Bruce Funk resigned Monday night after the commission met behind closed doors with state elections officials and representatives of Diebold Elections Systems over Funk's allowing election activists to test the machines.

But Funk, who had no legal representation, says he was emotionally drained by Monday's confrontation when he said he would step down from his 23-year post. "At that point I just wanted out," he said.

But by Tuesday, Funk changed his mind. Instead of confirming his resignation in writing, Funk hired a lawyer and says he will fight for his position.

"I plan to fulfill the term of my office," Funk said. "I was elected to this position by the people of Emery County."

Commissioner Ira Hatch said oral or not, Funk resigned.

"As far as I'm concerned, it [the resignation] will stick," Hatch said. "The legal beagles may look at it differently."

Funk says he plans to monitor Diebold's retesting of the voting machines and even videotape it to protect the integrity of the Emery County vote - and himself.

"I don't think Diebold wants anyone to know what they do to the machines," Funk said. "It needs to be documented as to what they do and and why, and videotape everything they did."

But Hatch said that is unlikely to happen.

"I told him if he was a county employee, he could do that," Hatch said. "As of April 1, he is not going to be an employee of the county."

Michael Cragun, Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert's deputy director, said statewide elections are the Lt. Governor's responsibility, though the county clerks manage the balloting.

"Ultimately, the county clerk is responsible for running the election within the parameters established by the Lt. Governor and the county commission," Cragun said.

Funk alleges some of the machines' memory showed suspicious discrepancies that he feared could affect an election.

Earlier this month, without notifying the state or Diebold, Funk invited in representatives of Black Box Voting, a Washington state-based nonprofit group critical of electronic voting, to inspect Emery's machines. Black Box has yet to issue a final report on the machines that are slated to replace Utah's punch card system.

Diebold told the commissioners that the unauthorized testing has violated the machines' integrity, and possibly the warranty. Restoring them could cost the county $40,000, Diebold said.

Election officials may be reluctant to entrust the Diebold machines to a clerk who has so zealously opposed them.

"They can go through and recertify them," Funk said. "I'm still a person who has access to them the next day."

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