Mazzeo alleges unauthorized access to ballots in recount filings

"Unauthorized persons had access" to an area of City Hall where ballots were stored, according to the text of Melissa Mazzeo's request for a mayoral recount following the Nov. 5 election.

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PITTSFIELD — "Unauthorized persons had access" to an area of City Hall where ballots were stored, according to the text of Melissa Mazzeo's request for a mayoral recount following the Nov. 5 election.

Her petition also cites the high number of absentee ballots requested during this year's election cycle, raising questions "about the accuracy of the record."

But Mayor Linda Tyer, who won the election by 529 votes, said there was nothing to such claims.

"I'm 100% confident in the integrity of Pittsfield's elections and I am absolutely certain I won this election fair and square," she told The Eagle via email.

Mazzeo cited ongoing discussions with attorneys as she declined to comment for this story.

Mazzeo filed the citywide recount paperwork Friday afternoon challenging the outcome of the election. The petition required 70 signatures — 10 from each ward — which clerks certified on Monday, City Clerk Michele Benjamin said.

When asked to respond to Mazzeo's allegation of unauthorized access to her office, Benjamin deferred to Stephen Pagnotta, the city's attorney.

"We will not comment on Ms. Mazzeo's allegations other than to say that the City Clerk's office is confident that the recount and review of the November 4 vote will ratify the integrity of registrar's office, of the voting process and of the votes that were cast by the citizens of Pittsfield," Pagnotta said

The recount will not happen this week, Benjamin said, but it could come as early as Nov. 25.

The city will need to cover the cost of the recount, she said. She hadn't prepared an estimate as of Monday afternoon, but listed a series of expenses that include hiring a police officer for the day of the count, as well as between 14 and 18 people for three days at about $12 an hour.

"My hope is that this will be done in a day," Benjamin said, noting that during the last mayoral recount in 2009, 18 counters were reserved for three days and paid for one.

The process will also require staff time from her office in the days ahead, she said. Only mayoral votes will be counted again.

Another member of the Board of Registrars must also be appointed, she said, as Thomas Hamel recused himself for personal reasons. Other active members of the board include Benjamin, William Barry and Jennifer Kerwood.

The recount will likely take place in council chambers, Benjamin said, and both Mazzeo and Tyer will be permitted to have observers in the room.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

This story has been modified to correct staffing and payment information about the 2009 recount.


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