Alderpersons allege discrimination by election official

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Two incumbent San Felipe alderpersons whose applications for re-election were rejected by City Secretary/Election Official Sue Foley claim her treatment of them demonstrates a pattern of discrimination against them.

Kent McAllister and Cynthia Kelly were elected to serve on the board in 2018 but are being forced off in May after Foley rejected their applications due to clerical errors. They claim she is retaliating against them for being whistleblowers on irregularities in the town’s finances.

“Cynthia and I noticed what we thought were financial irregularities and we began researching them,” McAllister said. “That led to the auditor confirming some of our concerns and I think that we are, by law, whistleblowers and protected by state law. And I believe I’m being retaliated against for my involvement in that investigation,” McAllister said at the March 10 council meeting.

“This is election engineering,” Kelly said in an interview with The Sealy News. “She’s engineered this so there would be no election.”

Foley told The Sealy News that she followed the law and treated them fairly. She said as the election official she has five days after receiving an application to review it. She said she found errors on three applications and sent each candidate a form letter with checked boxes indicating the reason for rejection.

“We’re supposed to notify the candidates and that’s basically what I did,” she said.

She denied any discrimination in her rejection of the two incumbents and a third applicant, Jeffrey Davidson.

“There is no conspiracy here,” she said. “I have to treat everyone fairly.”

McAllister said he turned in his application on Feb. 7 but the postmark on his rejection notice is Feb. 20, nearly two weeks later. He also said his application has all the required blanks filled in. Kelly said her application was missing her occupation, which is a required blank.

The two said Foley gave them a hard time in 2018 and 2020 when they tried to apply for a position on the ballot. They said Foley normally notarizes the applications when they come in, but each time the two of them came to the office she failed to have her stamp with her. That included Kelly in 2019 when she ran against Mayor Bobby Byars. Most of the other applicants, however, had their applications notarized by Foley.

“We had to have someone else notarized the applications,” McAllister said.

He showed copies of the applications from the three candidates whose applications for election were accepted. “We have copies of all applications. They were obtained through freedom of information. The city secretary notarized Alfred Hall’s and Michael Elliott’s, but Brenda Newsom had someone else notarize her application for this election,” he said.

He also produced copies of applications from 2018 where he and Kelly claim Foley not only corrected errors on other applications, but actually completed the bottom half of Louis Bonner’s form.

“Applications to be placed on the ballot from the 2018 election will reflect that the city secretary not only corrected three of the applicants’ applications personally, she also completed the bottom section for Mr. Bonner,” McAllister said. “In addition, she notarized all three applications... The city secretary refused to notarize the applications for Cynthia Kelly or me.”

In addition to seeking copies of the applications through the Freedom of Information Act, McAllister also requested copies of billing statements from the city attorney, which he received from Sasha Swaner, executive assistant/paralegal to Alan Bojorquez of the Bojorquez Law Firm. The statements arrived with names redacted. They do show, however, that there was extensive discussion between the city and the attorney regarding the election, including several phone calls during the filing period.

The bills from the attorney on Feb. 20-23 state: “Draft memo on election cancellation risk.” “Evaluation of possible legal recourse pertaining to cancellation of election.” “Analysis of circumstances leading to cancellation of May election.” “Analysis of a risk to the municipality re rejecting candidate’s placement on the election ballot.” And “Revision to memo on election cancellation ordinance.”

On Feb. 26 there were three invoices marked “Initial review and set up request; analyze Documents and determine next steps and how to respond.”

“The attorney’s bill will show that the city secretary realized she hadn’t sent the required notice of rejection,” McAllister said. “The city secretary backdated the notice letter and then mailed it. The postmarked envelope shows it was done after the sign-up period ended.”

McAllister said he became suspicious on Friday, Feb. 14, the last day to file, when he went to city hall to look for the election notice which is traditionally posted on the front door. It wasn’t. Since Monday was Presidents Day and a holiday he came back on Tuesday. There was still no list. He waited at the office for a couple hours for Foley to come in and made periodic checks throughout the day. He said Foley did not show up.

“I went to the city office to find out why names weren’t posted,” McAllister said. “A police officer was there when I arrived. I heard him speaking to the city secretary/election official on the phone. This was also the last day for a write-in candidate. The city secretary never arrived, and I was told she would not be coming to the offices. I waited until 10:30 a.m. before leaving. I stopped by multiple times throughout the day to see if the city secretary/election official had shown up for work.”

He said he was notified by a friend after 5 p.m. that the notice had been posted on the door and the three names left off.

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