The agency overseeing the city’s near-calamitous voting operations is a modern-day Tammany Hall run by the mothers, wives and sons of political leaders and staffed by workers more interested in watching Netflix and getting high on the job than making it easy for voters to cast their ballots, according to former employees.
“That place is messed up,” said Betty Ann Canizio, who was pushed out of her role as the Board of Elections’ Brooklyn deputy chief in 2016 after voters were mysteriously purged from the borough rolls.
In 2015, she came across a group of BOE colleagues in charge of voting machines smoking marijuana at a Sunset Park depot where the equipment is stored — the night of an election, Canizio told The Post.
She said she reported the incident to bosses but nothing happened.
“A lot of them that work there are hardworking,” she said of BOE staff. “Then there are a lot of them that, they would come in to work drunk, they would come in to work high, there were fist fights in the office.”
Charles Stimson, who’s done trainings for the Board of Elections for nearly 20 years, echoed Canizio’s concerns in an interview with The New York Times.
“It is really hard to have co-workers who are incapable of performing what they need to do,” Stimson told the newspaper, adding that some colleagues filled their days with personal reading or their favorite Netflix binge and then left early to shop or hit the gym.
The tales of workplace malfeasance come as the BOE has made major blunders in two recent rounds of elections.
An astounding 25 percent of mail-in ballots cast in Brooklyn for June’s primary elections were declared invalid. The BOE was still mailing absentee ballots the day before the June primary, leaving little chance they could reach voters in time, according to city lawyers.
Then in September the board sent return envelopes with the incorrect names and addresses to up to 100,000 Brooklyn voters who requested absentee ballots.
Voters participating in the first three days of early voting for the upcoming general election were met with massive lines across the city.
Both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the hours-long wait times over the weekend as early voting began in New York City were indicative of the board’s unpreparedness for an election occurring during a global pandemic.
“I think the Board of Elections in New York City did a terrible job,” the governor said. “Terrible.”
They each proposed a complete overhaul of the agency, which would require an amendment to the constitution with approval of the voters in a referendum and two successive votes by the state Legislature.
But despite all their protestations, neither de Blasio nor Cuomo has made any moves to start that process rolling.
The board is rife with political patronage from the right and the left. It is made up of 10 commissioners — two from each borough — selected by bosses of the Democratic and Republican parties, and approved by the City Council.
The board’s leadership includes voter registration head Beth Fossella, who is also former Staten Island Republican congressman Vito J. Fossella’s 80-year-old mother; administrative manager Pamela Perkins, who is married to City Councilman Bill Perkins (D-Harlem); and deputy clerk Daniel Ortiz, whose dad is Democratic Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz.
Democratic state Sen. Liz Krueger, chairwoman of the chamber’s powerful budget committee, has dubbed the BOE a “failure” and called for reforms.
Her crusade is based in part on her own experience with the board 20 years ago — a ‘truth is stranger than fiction’-type incident that was later used in a “Law & Order” episode.
Krueger says she learned in the spring of 2001 that ballots from a close race a year earlier she’d lost to entrenched Republican state Sen. Roy Goodman were found in four boxes stacked up in the ceiling against the air conditioning vents.
Workers complained that the cool air was not coming out of the vents. When they checked the ceiling the four boxes of ballots were discovered.
“The Republican staffers stuffed the ballots in the ceiling so their boss could win and they could keep their jobs,” Krueger said.
Goodman, who died in 2014, was also the Manhattan Republican Party chairman who controlled GOP hires at the BOE.
Board officials have defended their agency, arguing that they’re an easy, cheap shot for elected officials and saying the bi-partisan agency was created in response to Tammany Hall corruption and one-party rule.
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