Former Mayor Virginia Madueño’s supporters said the Stanislaus County election office shouldn’t charge them for staff salaries for the week before ballots were recounted in the November mayoral race. Madueño is contesting an itemized bill showing that Registrar of Voters Lee Lundrigan charged almost $4,000 for her time spent on the December recount. A Madueño supporter who asked for the recount was billed $10,217 by Lundrigan’s office for an effort that lasted 5½ hours before it was called off. In addition to a required $2,400 deposit to start the Dec. 10 recount, county elections sent a bill six weeks later seeking payment of an extra $7,817, based on staff time to prepare for the tally. According to the invoice, Lundrigan worked 30 hours preparing for and conducting the recount, at a rate of $131.42 per hour. Time sheets show a total of 108 hours worked by 11 other employees on Dec. 10 and the previous week.
Sacramento attorney Amber Maltbie, representing Madueño, said she has asked the county in writing to waive the staff salaries for the week before the recount and refund part of the $2,400 deposit. Her letter sought a response from the county by Monday. “If they knew they were going to bill that for the week prior to the recount, they should have been upfront about that so Virginia had the information to know whether to proceed or not proceed,” Maltbie said. She added the time sheets don’t tell what work was done.
Deputy County Counsel Deirdre McGrath said Friday the charges were fair. “I don’t know what they are expecting us to do by April 1. It is something we are still looking at.”
McGrath said Madueño’s request to have all 11,000 provisional ballots available for the recount required more staff time to prepare. The election office maintains the Madueño team was told it would be billed extra if costs exceeded the $2,400 deposit.
The dispute simmers months after the partial recount made no difference in the outcome. Madueño lost to Richard O’Brien by 53 votes. About 500 of the 6,100-plus ballots cast in November were recounted; Madueño stopped the process when the results were not changing.
The Madueño campaign was charged more than five times the $1,875 cost in 2008 to recount Measure S, a countywide road-tax proposal, and far more than recounts held recently in cities and counties in California.