Ex-Diebold employee to run Solano elections
By Warren Lutz Fairfield and Suisun City Daily Republic 29 September 2004
FAIRFIELD Diebold Election Systems may have lost Solano County's voting machine contract, but that didn't stop the county from hiring a former Diebold employee to run local elections.
Deborah Seiler - who helped sell Solano County nearly 1,200 touchscreen voting machines that were not officially certified and were later banned and returned to their manufacturer - became Solano County's elections manager this week.
Although a county official described Seiler as the most qualified candidate for the job, the move jarred at least one county supervisor who voted to end the county's contract with Diebold several months ago.
"I am so angry," District 1 Supervisor Barbara Kondylis said. "And it's done without telling us. I got it from another employee."
Kondylis was also upset to learn the county's Vallejo election office won't be open for the November election. The election office distributes voter election information and collects absentee ballots. The Fairfield office will remain open and information will be available on line.
One of four finalists for the elections manager job, Seiler was the best qualified to take the helm of the county elections division, Chief Information Officer Ira Rosenthal said.
Former Registrar of Voters Laura Winslow resigned last spring. The county has since moved the Elections Department under the Department of Information Technology, which Rosenthal oversees.
Rosenthal said he expected Seiler's hiring might ruffle the feathers of supervisors who were critical of Diebold before and after the March primary, when the company's Accu-Vote TSx machines were used for the first and last time.
In June, the board threw out its contract with Diebold, which has faced criticism that their machines were insecure and could be tampered with.
But Rosenthal stood by Seiler, who was the unanimous choice of a three-person hiring committee.
"She's absolutely the best person for the job, especially long term, for what this county needs," he said. "I don't think you can put the company we dealt with and the people in the same box."
Seiler spent eight years working for Sequoia Voting Systems, a competitor of both Diebold and Election Systems and Software, the vendor Solano County chose to replace Diebold's equipment. She also spent 12 years working for the Secretary of State's election division.
"She's very well respected as someone who knows election law and procedures and has been an adviser to election officials for some time," said Alfie Charles, a Sequoia spokesman.
While it's relatively common for election officials to take jobs in the private sector, it's somewhat rare for people in the elections equipment industry to take government jobs.
Kondylis said Seiler's qualifications are "excellent" but was afraid how the public would view her hiring considering Diebold's problems.
She is also concerned that the Vallejo elections office won't open this year because of a staff shortage, an issue supervisors will address at a future board meeting.
Rosenthal said the office's small amount of business and high turnover in the elections division contributed to the decision to keep the office closed this year.