Clackamas County elections manager resigns over disagreement
Clackamas County's elections manager has resigned his post after a disagreement with County Clerk Sherry Hall over departmental policies around COVID-19 and safety restrictions in the workplace.
According to Andrew Jones, former elections manager for Clackamas County, his decision to leave Hall's office Monday, Nov. 16, stems from concerns he raised regarding Hall's choice to keep the offices that interact with the public operating at full capacity.
Jones said that while a majority of the county's offices are working remotely, the elections, licensing and recording divisions have all continued to report to their offices with no alternating schedules or opportunity to work remotely.
"It's completely Sherry's authority as county clerk to run the department," Jones told Pamplin Media. "I just disagreed with it, and it was a deal breaker for me."
According to Jones, many of the elections staff and temporary employees brought in during election season were members of high-risk categories for COVID-19 infection.
"This was about personal safety. I had employees that had expressed concerns to me that we were not doing everything we could to maintain a safe environment and reduce the number of interactions with people," he said.
According to Jones, the clerk's office has been operating at full capacity since June with no contingency plans for if there was exposure to the virus among staff. He said that staff was allowed to work remotely at the beginning of the pandemic back in March as the office prepared for the primary election in May.
"That went well, and I thought we demonstrated that we could (work remotely) successfully and safely," he said.
Jones said that despite his exit, he stands by the work the elections division completed ahead of the Nov. 3 general election to ensure a safe, secure and smooth process that yielded a historic voter turnout of nearly 85%.
"It was incredible to really not have any major issues. We didn't have lines for people, and I think everybody that wanted a ballot got one, so I'm so proud of the work that we did," Jones said. "It was pretty heartbreaking to feel like I had to leave."
Hall responded in email saying that it is not her policy to comment on personnel matters, but she did state that her office is following COVID-19 protocols established by the state and pursuant recommendations provided by the Board of County Commissioners and county administration.
Hall said that two of the principal functions of the clerk's office are conducting elections and issuing marriage licenses, both of which require much of the work to be done in person. According to Hall, keeping up with the county's large volume of property transactions also requires mostly in-person labor due to the present technology of her office.
"Balancing the requirements of the law, the needs of the public and the directions of public health authorities is not easy and cannot be done to the satisfaction of all," Hall wrote. "But I do take COVID seriously, and we are doing what we can consistent with state and county direction. The work done here for elections and recording is essential work."
According to Hall, her office has not yet formed a plan or process to replace Jones. County human resources has not yet produced a job listing for the position.
Steve Kindred, former Clackamas County elections manager, said Jones was a great addition to the elections office that he "enthusiastically supported" to replace him after his retirement in late 2017.
According to an automatic reply from Jones' former county email address, Deputy Clerk Rebekah Stern Doll is filling in for Jones as interim elections manager.
Kindred also supported recruiting Stern Doll to Clackamas County and sees her as "capable and knowledgeable," just like Jones.
"Becky is not going to miss a beat as the new interim elections manager," Kindred said.
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