Election officials responded to a letter from gubernatorial candidate Kent Bernier Sr. and his Oakland running mate Benta, who accused the election supervisor and board chairman of “collusion” with their incumbent rivals.
Bernier and Benta, who are challenging incumbent Democratic Governors Albert Bryan Jr. and Lt. Gov. Tregenza Roach in the Aug. 6 primary, complained in a June 2 letter to the electoral system that Democratic leaders wrongly endorse and favor the Bryan/ Roach Campaign.
The council formed an investigation committee which investigated this and other complaints. Council members voted on June 15 to do nothing and said the issues raised were outside the council’s purview.
Electoral board chairman Raymond Williams recalled the board’s decision in a letter to Bernier and Benta on June 16.
“After discussion among the members present, a majority voted that the complaint be brought before the Democratic Party to be dealt with in accordance with its rules, procedures and policies,” Williams wrote.
This prompted another letter from Bernier and Benta on June 21, which accused election officials of “prevaricating, which actually translates into collusion and collaboration with the outgoing governor.”
The seven-page letter ended by saying the Bernier and Benta campaign had “engaged” with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department, and demanded that election officials contact federal authorities.
“If we don’t have proof that legal proceedings have been initiated within 24 hours, we will proceed with the filing of a formal complaint against the Supervisor of Elections, the Joint Elections Committee and anyone who may be involved in public corruption,” according to the letter.
“We ‘strongly suggest’ that the Supervisor of Elections act immediately to prevent a federal investigation that will lead to the convening of a grand jury. When that happens, it will be a point of no return,” the letter notes, with the words “strongly suggested” not just in quotes, but in italics and highlighted in red.
Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes responded on June 27 and noted that the complaint consisted of 27 pages and 18 pages of exhibits and exhibits.
“I have read and re-read the entire file more than three times,” Fawkes wrote, before listing the reasons why she does not have the authority to investigate the complaint.
Bernier’s letter cited a section of the Campaign Finance Act, but Fawkes said the campaign’s reliance on that section of Code VI “is completely misplaced” because the complaint does not contain any allegation that would constitute a crime in under the law.
“Because you have not alleged violations of campaign contribution laws, I have nothing to investigate under this chapter,” Fawkes wrote.
Regarding the allegations that the holders violated a section of the law prohibiting “undue influence by giving money or anything of value”, Fawkes said this section is not within the power or responsibility Supervisor’s Legal.
Fawkes said she forwarded the complaint to the VI Justice Department and the Police Department for review.
Further, Fawkes wrote that the main role of the electoral system is limited to preparing for and administering elections and does not oversee internal political party disputes.
“Your complaint alleges that the leadership of the VI Democratic Party violated its rules and bylaws by endorsing the incumbent governor and lieutenant governor before a primary election was held,” Fawkes wrote. “There is nothing in Title 18 that authorizes the Supervisor of Elections to enforce the rules or bylaws of a political party. Therefore, I have no action to take regarding this allegation.
Regardless of the complaint, Fawkes said the council reviewed the written votes from the 2020 election and determined that Republican Michael A. Joseph would fill the vacant seat on the council. The vacancy was created by the passing of longtime board member Glenn Webster on June 2.