Friday, March 18, 2016 2 comments



Former Johnson County Election Commissioner Brian Newby believes that the findings of the "transition audit" released yesterday are inaccurate, incomplete and misleading.
Unfortunately, Newby was never provided the opportunity to review and respond to the findings prior to its release. Newby can only assume that the County Manager and Commissioners are motivated to bring the Election Office under their control instead of allowing the Office to operate independently as provided for under Kansas law.
Under Newby’s leadership, the Johnson County Election Commission has received national acclaim, earning innovation awards from Harvard University, the National Association of Election Officials, the National Association of Counties, and the League of Women Voters.  The Office’s accomplishments, and Newby’s leadership specifically, were profiled in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.  Newby’s leadership was recognized through nomination by a panel of his peers as a finalist for his current position overseeing the operations of a federal government agency. 
Johnson County voters benefited from Newby’s efforts that included securely managing a fleet of voting machines worth $10 million and overseeing an annual operating budget of several million dollars. Newby personally trained 2,500 election workers, and advanced accessibility of voting through satellite voting centers at Metcalf South and the Mall of the Great Plains.  Johnson County’s elections, by all standards, were impeccably run.
The audit appears to have focused on book purchases, attendance at out-of-state conferences, and office equipment purchases. These purchases resulted in the taxpayers of Johnson County saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in efficiencies and cost saving measures. Newby’s inspiration for these cost saving measures came from the books and the out-of-state conferences he attended on behalf of the County.
Further, his book purchases and travel expenses on behalf of the Election Office were within the budgetary parameters previously approved by the County Manager and the County Commission.  Additionally, Newby complied with established protocols for submitting expense reports associated with his travel. 
The audit improperly stated the conditions for Newby's car allowance of $300, which were reiterated when the current election commissioner was named.  (See photo of resolution prepared for the February 4 BOCC meeting that explains the car allowance supports in-county travel only).  The car allowance only applied to travel within Johnson County and allowed for the sedan transportation taken to the airport that the audit disputes.  Every incident of this transportation method in the audit review period was approved by the county manager.  In no instance, as an aside, was a limousine used, although the county auditor and BOCC chair referenced limousine often.  The car company, Westport Transportation--used for the entire 11 years--used "KC Limo" as the merchant name on the credit card, a distinction known to the auditors and, again, each of these charges were approved by the county manager.
Although the Election Commissioner is a position that isn't required to specifically follow county policies, at Newby's request, he approached the county manager at the end of 2009 to approve all of Newby's credit card purchases.  The audit implies end-runs around procedures, yet the accompanying photo of the county travel policy (printed October 15, 2015 while Newby was still at the county) clearly shows that "the Election Commissioner may approve (his) own travel expense."  This speaks to the independent nature of the office, according to Kansas law.
Newby invites the auditor to consider contacting Newby in the spirit of the auditor revising the findings to be more accurate, not misleading, and complete.  Finally, Newby stands ready to help his successor in any way possible to ensure a smooth transition of leadership.