Westmoreland commissioner expresses confidence in election office as director's suspension continues

·2 min read

Jun. 11—The Westmoreland County commissioners said Thursday the staff issues that have plagued the county election bureau this week has not impacted the department's ability to operate.

The commissioners following their June public meeting did not acknowledge the paid suspension of Election Bureau Director JoAnn Sebastiani but indicated they are working to resolve the issue.

"At this time, we cannot comment on personnel matters until it's finished," Commissioner Sean Kertes said. " Once we get everything squared away we'll have comments."

Sebastiani, who was appointed as the election director last August, was placed on paid suspension Tuesday. According to an action form signed by all three commissioners, her suspension is slated to run through Friday, June 11.

Sebastiani on Wednesday declined comment and did so again Thursday.

The election bureau is currently being overseen by Public Works Director Greg McCloskey, who was assigned temporarily to the elections office last month to serve as Sebastiani's deputy in the days leading up to the May 18 primary.

"With employees we have in the office, they are the ones who are in the office on the front lines every day doing the jobs," Kertes said, "so I have confidence in the office right now they will do as they do when (constituents) call in to ask questions."

Commissioner Gina Cerilli Thrasher, who previously referred questions to the county solicitor, said Thursday "I don't have any comment on the election bureau at this time."

County officials are still dealing with the fallout from the May 18 primary. Hearings have been scheduled before Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Harry Smail Jr. on two challenges of the primary results in the Southmoreland School District and the Democratic race for Sewickley supervisor.

The Southmoreland race involves an allegation that county elections officials excluded from the ballot a vacant two-year seat for school board.

The Sewickley case challenged how the write-in votes were counted.

Meanwhile, final certification of 14 races were delayed earlier this week after county officials said some write-in winners were not identified in the initial batch of results tabulated. The county elections board is scheduled to meet Tuesday, June 15 to certify those races.

The commissioners, acting as the county salary board, had been expected to vote on a series of personnel issues on Thursday including a potential reorganization of election bureau staff. That meeting was postponed until Thursday, June 17.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, rcholodofsky@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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