Board cer­ti­fies Her­ring as AG

Fi­nally tally: 165 votes give Demo­crat the win; Oben­shain can ap­peal Change in re­count law opens the door for GOP chal­lenge

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY MERED­ITH SOMERS BY KEN­RIC WARD

The D.C. fire depart­ment has hired a po­lar­iz­ing for­mer Prince Ge­orge’s County chief to its No. 2 spot in charge of the depart­ment’s op­er­a­tions.

A spe­cial or­der from Chief Ken­neth B. Ellerbe named Eugene A. Jones, who served about two years as head of the Prince Ge­orge’s County fire depart­ment, to the po­si­tion of as­sis­tant fire chief ef­fec­tive Mon­day.

As an out­sider who came up through the ranks of the county fire depart­ment, the D.C. fire­fight­ers union says Mr. Jones has his work cut out for him.

“D.C. is ab­so­lutely a whole dif­fer­ent world than PG,” said Ed­ward Smith, pres­i­dent of the D.C. Fire­fight­ers As­so­ci­a­tion. “We have dif­fer­ent op­er­a­tions. He’s got a tough job ahead.” Mr. Jones led the Prince Ge­orge’s County depart­ment from early 2009 — re­turn­ing to the depart­ment af­ter re­tir­ing as a ma­jor with 25 years of ser­vice — through De­cem­ber 2010 when in­com­ing County Ex­ec­u­tive Rush­ern L. Baker III opted to re­place him. But in the short time he headed the depart­ment, Mr. Jones rou­tinely found his poli­cies and cost-cut­ting mea­sures the tar­get of union scru­tiny.

“While Eugene Jones served as chief of the Prince Ge­orge’s County Fire/EMS Depart­ment, we en­dured many chal­lenges un­der his lead­er­ship,” said An­drew Pan­telis, pres­i­dent of the Prince Ge­orge’s County Pro­fes­sional Fire Fight­ers and Paramedics As­so­ci­a­tion. “In his short ten­ure, we wit­nessed a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in staffing which re­sulted in sta­tion clo­sures, in­creased re­sponse times and dan­ger­ous work prac­tices.”

While Mr. Smith said he was not fa­mil­iar with al­le­ga­tions made by the county union about Mr. Jones, he ques­tioned the de­ci­sion to hire from out­side the city and the depart­ment.

“It’s just strange be­cause when the con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings were held for Ellerbe, the city was all about hir­ing from within. It seems a lit­tle hyp­o­crit­i­cal to me that with One City-One Hire, that they went out­side,” Mr. Smith said, re­fer­ring to a pro­gram pro­moted by Mayor Vin­cent C. Gray to en­cour­age em­ploy­ers to hire D.C. res­i­dents.

Pub­lic records in­di­cate Mr. Jones lives in Beltsville and has reg­is­tered his con­sult­ing busi­ness, Sys­tems Emer­gency Pre­pared­ness Con­sul­tants, there. D.C. of­fi­cials did not re­spond for com­ment about whether Mr. Jones would move into the Dis­trict as a con­di­tion of his em­ploy­ment.

Un­der Mr. Jones’ lead­er­ship in Prince Ge­orge’s County, the depart­ment re­duced over­time costs, but union of­fi­cials de­rided the mea­sures used to do so — which in­cluded hefty re­liance on vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers af­ter the depart­ment re­moved all ca­reer per­son­nel from some of the county’s fire sta­tions. Un­like the D.C. fire depart­ment, which is solely staffed by ca­reer fire­fight­ers and med­i­cal per­son­nel, the county fire depart­ment is a com­bi­na­tion force re­ly­ing on the help of ap­prox­i­mately 1,100 vol­un­teers to sup­ple­ment cov­er­age.

On one oc­ca­sion, la­bor ac­cused Mr. Jones of re­tal­i­a­tion against a lieu­tenant colonel who had filed a griev­ance with the union.

“The un­for­tu­nate fact is that the Fire Chief has used a griev­ance as a con­ve­nient ex­cuse to take an ac­tion that he has longed to ex­e­cute for some time,” wrote Mr. Pan­telis in a 2010 let­ter to union mem­bers about the ter­mi­na­tion of Lt. Col. Vic­tor Stag­naro.

Of­fi­cials from the D.C. fire depart­ment and the

The Vir­ginia State Board of Elec­tions on Mon­day de­clared Mark R. Her­ring the win­ner of the state’s at­tor­ney gen­eral’s race in the clos­est con­test in state his­tory de­spite con­cerns ex­pressed by the board’s chair­man about the can­vass­ing process.

The three-mem­ber board unan­i­mously cer­ti­fied the re­sults of the Nov. 5 elec­tion, which gave the Demo­crat a 165-vote ad­van­tage out of more than 2.2 mil­lion bal­lots cast, dur­ing a morn­ing meet­ing in Rich­mond.

Mr. Her­ring, who de­clared vic­tory Nov. 12, said in a state­ment he was “grat­i­fied” by the re­sults and that he looked for­ward to serv­ing Vir­ginia res­i­dents and laid out a broad plan for when he takes of­fice.

“Our guid­ing prin­ci­ple will be to put the law and Vir­gini­ans first, in­stead of ad­her­ence to ex­treme ide­ol­ogy,” he said. “In the ar­eas of pub­lic safety, vet­er­ans ser­vices, civil rights, con­sumer and small-busi­ness pro­tec­tions, and ethics in our pub­lic sphere, sig­nif­i­cant progress can and will be made for Vir­gini­ans.”

Repub­li­can can­di­date Mark D. Oben­shain did not im­me­di­ately say whether he planned to call for a re­count. Mr. Oben­shain is en­ti­tled to a re­count be­cause the mar­gin was less than 1 per­cent of the vote. He has 10 days to make the call.

In a state­ment, his cam­paign pointed out that in the past 13 years four statewide elec­tions in the coun­try have had mar­gins of fewer than 300 votes, and in all four of those elec­tions “the re­sults were re­versed in a re­count.”

“Mar­gins this small are why Vir­ginia law pro­vides a process for a re­count,” Oben­shain cam­paign man­ager Chris Leav­itt said. “How­ever, a de­ci­sion to re­quest a re­count, even in this his­tor­i­cally close elec­tion, is not one to be made lightly.”

When a re­count is called, the State Board of Elec­tions first sets the stan­dards for the han­dling, se­cu­rity and ac­cu­racy of the tally. A three-mem­ber “re­count court” is formed in Rich­mond and is headed by the chief judge of the Rich­mond Cir­cuit Court. Two ad­di­tional cir­cuit court judges are ap­pointed to the board by the chief jus­tice of the Vir­ginia Supreme Court.

The re­count court sets the stan­dards for de­ter­min­ing the ac­cu­racy of the votes and cer­ti­fies the elec­tion re­sults. Its rul­ing is fi­nal and can­not be ap­pealed, ac­cord­ing to Vir­ginia law.

Pa­per bal­lots are re­counted by hand, the print­outs from elec­tronic vot­ing ma­chines are re­viewed, and the op­ti­cal scan tab­u­la­tors are re­run through a pro­gram that counts only the votes for the race be­ing scru­ti­nized.

Mr. Oben­shain could also choose to con­test the elec­tion — a process that would put the race be­fore the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Gen­eral As­sem­bly.

Dur­ing Mon­day’s meet­ing, elec­tions board Chair­man Charles Judd voted to cer­tify the re­sults “with

RICH­MOND | A law cham­pi­oned by a Demo­cratic state se­na­tor who lost a nar­row race for at­tor­ney gen­eral in 2005 could give Repub­li­can Mark D. Oben­shain the tools to erase Mark R. Her­ring’s 165-vote lead in this year’s con­test.

R. Creigh Deeds, Bath Demo­crat who came up 360 votes short in his bid against Repub­li­can Bob McDon­nell in 2005 sub­se­quently au­thored leg­is­la­tion ex­pand­ing the scope of re­counts.

In 2005, the bal­lots were only re­run in precincts that had iden­ti­fied prob­lems. But the Deeds leg­is­la­tion re­quired all op­ti­cal scan bal­lots be re­run in the event of a re­count and that bal­lots con­tain­ing write-in votes, un­der votes or over votes be hand-counted.

Around the na­tion, statewide re­counts be­tween 2000 and 2009 re­sulted in an av­er­age mar­gin swing of 296 votes be­tween the fron­trun­ners, rep­re­sent­ing 0.027 per­cent of the statewide vote in those elec­tions, ac­cord­ing to the Center for Vot­ing and Democ­racy.

Mr. Her­ring’s mar­gin of vic­tory, cer­ti­fied

of­fice of the deputy mayor for pub­lic safety and jus­tice did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment about Mr. Jones’ hir­ing.

But while the poli­cies put in place by Mr. Jones in Prince Ge­orge’s County ran­kled the union, vol­un­teers there said he helped quell an­i­mos­ity be­tween fire depart­ment lead­er­ship and the vol­un­teer com­pa­nies.

“He was able to bring the bud­get un­der con­trol and we were able to get the sup­plies we needed as vol­un­teers,” said John Al­ter, chair­man of the Prince Ge­orge’s County Fire Com­mis­sion. “He was ac­ces­si­ble and we could talk with him about our needs.”

In be­tween his stints at the county fire depart­ment, Mr. Jones worked as the ex­er­cise and train­ing of­fi­cer of the county’s Of­fice of Home­land Se­cu­rity and cur­rently serves as a mem­ber of Mary­land’s State Fire Preven­tion Com­mis­sion.

“We ad­vo­cated for his re­place­ment be­cause he was not the right per­son to lead our depart­ment,” Mr. Pan­telis said. “Per­haps he will be a bet­ter fit for the Dis­trict of Columbia.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHOTOGRAPHS

Vir­ginia’s State Board of Elec­tions Chair­man Charles E. Judd (left) and sec­re­tary Don Palmer meet Mon­day in Rich­mond to cer­tify the Nov. 5 vote for at­tor­ney gen­eral and de­clared Demo­crat Mark R. Her­ring the win­ner by 165 votes. Mr. Judd added that his de­ci­sion was “with ques­tion” for con­cerns about the “in­tegrity of the data.”

Jones

Her­ring

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