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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 5, 2007 7:50 AM. The previous post in this blog was Reader poll: Will the Ducks make it to national title game?. The next post in this blog is Are days numbered for Portland public schools lottery?. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Monday, November 5, 2007

A little dirt for Election Eve

A reader who appears to have an inside view of the Multnomah County Elections Office reports that there's some friction going on between Department of Community Services Director Cecilia Johnson and Director of Elections John Kauffman:

I've heard that Ms. Johnson has removed [Kauffman] in all but name only, after a glowing audit report in June. I hear she has brought in a non-elections person to manage the office.... What I've heard is Mr. Kauffman was planning to stay until next summer, to assist with the transition of a new Elections Director. I thought Mr Kauffman seemed like a good director. He's always seemed to know his elections stuff and from what I've been told he's well respected in the elections community.... I understand Mr. Kauffman is still there, but I guess he doesn't have any role now. Ms. Johnson, as you may remember, is the director who received a very lenient suspension from former Chair Diane Linn for unauthorized use of a county vehicle, hitting pedestrians...
Could it be that all those ballots are going to a bureau that's having a bad morale moment? The reader seems to think so. Perhaps someone else out there could enlighten us as to the accuracy of this report.

Comments (10)

Kauffman was county clerk down in Clackamas County for forever and a day. He retired from that position because he was tired of all the extra-curricular hooey that came with the gig. Recording deeds and such. But he loved the elections stuff. As I recall, Multnomah County carved out a niche for him and he's been running the elections department ever since. He's even commented here in the past. He's a great servant. The County is about to lose a good one.

What Chris said.

John Kauffman is well beyond "a good director."

John, along with a number of his colleagues in Oregon and state director Lindback are nationally recognized as running one of the best elections operations in the country. If you look at the membership of various national oversight and standards boards, the "two Johns" come up again and again.

John's retirement, as far as I know, was announced long ago. John has served honorably and diligently for a long time.

The reader's e-mail gave me the impression that its author was interested in slamming Johnson as much as praising Kauffman.

Jack,
Didn't intend my comment to be directed at you. Sorry if it was read that way.

Not at all. I was happy to hear that perhaps the situation is not as negative as the reader suggested.

I just got this last week sometime. It's posted online here.

MULTNOMAH COUNTY ANNOUNCES A RECRUITMENT FOR

Elections Manager

SALARY: $64,166.23 - $89,831.22 Annually

CLOSING DATE: November 30, 2007

RECRUITMENT NO.: 9666-01

THE POSITION:

Multnomah County (Portland, Oregon) is seeking an energetic, motivated and strategic leader with a proven track record of progressive innovative thinking and program development & implementation to lead the Elections Division.

The Elections Manager is responsible for managing, directing and coordinating the activities of the Elections Division staff; providing highly complex assistance to elected officials, public agencies and related jurisdictions, and informing the public in all issues involving election activities. Essential functions include:

• Manage, direct and organize division activities including voter registration, maintenance of voter rolls, conduct of elections and implementation of contribution and expenditure report laws.

• Lead the development and implementation of program budget, goals and objectives; develop and implement policies and procedures for an efficient and effective team environment and operation.

• Monitor, develop and implement national and state election legislation and legal decisions; monitor and implement current election trends and technologies; manage the Division’s record and retention program.

• Represent Multnomah County Elections to the media; respond to questions or inquiries; resolve complaints from the public; manage Division communication with vendors and other outside agencies.

• Lead a professionally open and transparent operational environment.

The County seeks an energetic, motivated and strategic leader with a proven track record of professional leadership, management and program operations experience. The ideal candidate will have a history of organizational leadership and highly developed managerial skills; familiarity with quality improvement principles and processes; and the ability to develop high performance work environments. Key competencies include: Leading employees to high quality results, team building, managing organizational change and superb customer service and conflict resolution skills.

The successful candidate will also have a history of service to the public and be known by colleagues as being honest and possessing integrity.

The ideal candidate will establish and maintain effective working relationships with peers, elected and appointed officials and will build relationships with other jurisdictions. He or she must and take a collaborative and team approach in achieving the work of the division and the department.

The Elections Manager must be comfortable working with the media and providing elected officials with all necessary information. This person must remain calm under pressure and have an open communication style.

The competitive candidate will be politically astute and diplomatic with the ability to communicate with a wide variety of constituencies in a clear, concise and credible manner. The candidate must possess excellent listening, verbal and written communication skills.

TO APPLY: Multnomah County is committed to hiring a diverse workforce. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply by November 30, 2007.

What's with the Elections Division being overseen by the Department of Community Services? Seems that the handling of elections and ensuring the integrity thereof is important enough all by itself that it ought not be delegated downward to report to and through some other unrelated functionary.

Absolutely agree with Chris. Kauffman will be a big loss. As far as I've heard, his retirement was indeed announced a while back and I'd bet that any morale problems are caused by the rest of the staff worrying about what chaos will happen when he's gone.

Ms. Johnson has apparently brought someone in to "organize" the office -- someone with no elections experience who was ostensibly hired as Johnson's personal staff assistant.

Whole thing (the original report by "insider") smells of fear based on what has been revealed about Kauffman's retirement planning. Without having access to the details this sounds like savvy transition planning by Johnson - ie. broaden the institutional knowledge by having someone work alongside a consummate professional before he leaves. At least more people in the hierarchy will now have an insider's perspective of how Elections can and should work.

But, I have to agree with the previous posters concerning the subordination of Elections to Community Services. While I can understand the desire to minimize their oversight requirements by the underpaid and overworked Board of Commmissioners this is one department that should have direct access to the commission. Its function is just too important to have the bureaucratic separation and consequent filtering of communication that occurs with middle(wo)men.

While his retirement will be a loss for Multnomah County I'm happy to see Kauffman finally retiring. He originally planned it in '02, went through much of the process, then decided to stay in the saddle a few more years for whatever reasons. I hope they have the class to give him one hell of a sendoff.


John Kauffman is a good egg. So is the rest of the Multnomah County Elections staff for that matter. I worked closely with them for 8 years in sometimes very difficult circumstances, both with John and his deputies and his predecessor Vicki Ervin.

As a whole they are honest, hard working and committed to the public good.

I'm sure that the depth of the experience of the staff will carry through with whoever is chosen as the new manager. In my experience it's about the folks who support the manager as much (if not more) than its about the person at the top.

That said, John will be missed but he deserves a good retirement!


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