In a recent Long County Commission meeting, county board of elections member Nancy McKnew questioned recent payments to board chair Vanessa Cunningham.
According to McKnew, Cunningham was paid $11,074.95 from the city of Ludowici and $7,397.00 from the county, and McKnew didn’t think she should have been paid this much. McKnew said she was paid $620 for her services as board member, while a third member was paid $2,340.
McKnew said her pay was based on $100 per hearing she attended and a flat rate of $55 per day for the other days she worked. However, she said the county paid Cunningham $1,175 for one day’s work on Oct. 15, 2011.
“I’m questioning why she was paid as much as she was,” McKnew said. “That is an exceptionally large figure, and I also am questioning why the city paid her directly. The city of Ludowici should have paid the county for the board of elections’ work, and then the county should have dispersed out our pay.”
McKnew claimed that Cunningham was paid $5,000 by the city and $550 from the county for 1,000 postcards asking people to vote twice. McKnew said she got an estimate from Staples that the cards would cost about $165.
“To me, that is clearly fraud,” McKnew said.
Cunningham told the Coastal Courier that the allegations and figures provided by McKnew were distorted and inaccurate. She said that the board was not the body working for the city of Ludowici, but that she was working for them as their city municipal elections superintendent.
“The city of Ludowici did not contract this work out to the county or to the board of elections. They contracted me to do the work,” Cunningham said.
She added that the discrepancy in pay is due to the amount of work she did compared with the other two board members.
“As for (McKnew), I requested her to come in but she wouldn’t come in to work. That’s why she was paid what she was,” Cunningham said.
Regarding the postcards issue, Cunningham said she was paid upfront to cover costs and didn’t know what final costs would be. Any surplus would have been paid back to the county or city.
Commissioner Bobby Walker told the Coastal Courier that the $16,000 Ludowici paid for the election was reasonable, and that the county has very little to do with the matter.
“The county has been dragged into this by a lot of people saying a lot of different things, but we held a good election and from our end, nothing was done wrong, and we have nothing to hide,” Walker said.
In other business, interim Liberty/Long County Emergency Management Services Director Robin Todd told the commission that her official appointment as the director would be Feb. 10.
Todd said the average response time for an EMS unit to arrive at a caller’s home is 12 minutes, nine seconds, and an emergency call response time is 11 minutes, 22 seconds. The national average is between nine and 13 minutes. Todd added that their busiest time is between 9 a.m. and noon.
In other EMS news, Todd said the EMS unit in Ludowici would continue to provide blood pressure and blood sugar checkups every week on Tuesday at the Senior Citizen’s Center in Ludowici. A new program called “We Care” will be offered in Long County in the schools. In the program, EMS personnel on duty will mentor selected students in a classroom.
Also, a first responder first-aid course will be offered to all law enforcement agencies in the county. The 55-hour course is free and is slated to start before spring. After the course, Todd said, two or three automated external defibrillators will be donated by the Hospital Authority to go in selected law-enforcement offices.