The Lt. Governor and the press in Utah owe Bruce Funk a public apology, but instead, they pretend he doesn't exist and waste the taxpayers money to save face.
The following is a high school graduate's, (my own), attempt at journalism from last year. Today's media would call this "old news", but I scoff.
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Sept. 18, 2006
The Un-Breaking Story of Bruce Funk
Last week, Mr.Bruce Funk, clerk and auditor in Emery county Utah until his, for lack of a better word, separation from those duties on April 1st 2006, testified, under oath, that the largest circulation newspaper in Utah, The Salt Lake Tribune, had misstated his claim that he had notified county commissioner Ira Hatch that he intended to keep his job of 23 years. Although he admitted he had verbally quit that job the night before, he was left with the strong impression that, because of the highly charged emotions present, he would have until the next day to decide whether to submit a formal resignation. Indeed, just minutes after he left that contentious meeting, Glen Warchol of the Tribune called Mr. Funk to say that he understood he had resigned. Funk told Mr. Warchol that he had been given the night to think things over, and Warchol printed that statement in a story about the incident the next day.
In a consequent story by Mr. Warchol, instead of printing Funk’s assertion that he had simply notified Mr. Hatch of his desire to stay on the job, stated in an article for the Tribune that “Funk changed his mind. Instead of confirming his resignation in writing, Funk hired a lawyer and says he will fight for his position.” Funk had admittedly “visited” Doug Short, a prominent attorney who, having been through a similar situation, told Funk he should stay in his position.
David Blackwell, who was representing commissioner Ira Hatch before the state records committee last Thursday was extremely intent, and almost seemed to be bluffing to get Funk to say that he had verbally issued an intent to take legal action against the state or certain personalities either in recorded session or “in passing in the hall”. Funk admitted that things had been going “ninety miles an hour”, and that he couldn’t recall all of the things that might have been said.
Mr. Funk is calling for the public release of the recorded sessions to clear things up.
Patricia Smith-Mansfield, who presided over the commission, made it clear throughout, that she didn’t think it was under the committee’s jurisdiction to release the archives. Funks attorney made it clear that he believed the records should be released because the names of those voting to take the discussion of Mr. Funk into closed session had not been, under law, properly documented in the minutes of those meetings.
Mr. Blackwell claims that this was merely a technicality and since it was known there was a unanimous decision made to go into closed session, should be allowed to, and would be willing to correct the mistake. Funks attorney, Phillip W. Dyer, claims that the commission has had six months to correct the records and that they should be released. Two members of the commission agreed with Mr. Dyer, and one said she had noticed a pattern of this sort of thing happening in the past. The full vote resulted in a further withholding of the documents.
Now I would like to talk about the title of this post on the “blogosphere”, The Un-Breaking Story of Bruce Funk. I am by, profession, an optician but have also published one computer program. The reason I got up at 7 a.m. and took my camcorder down to the State Archives Building last Thursday was because I was worried the press would not cover this very important story. It seems I was correct in that assumption.
Those who have been following the willful ignorance of both the television and print media on the most fundamentally important right of a nation that calls itself a democracy, the right to vote, and to have that vote counted, are watching in disbelief , and an increasing sense of anger at what is nothing less then a complete blackout on even a discussion of the voting fraud being wrought by the Republican party since the stolen election of 2000.
The Utah press’s very spotty coverage, although somewhat dignified some three years ago has devolved to the point that one reporter, Jay Evensen, of the Deseret Morning News referred to Mr. Funk as being “not too bright”, for having called in a third party to inspect the machines without state oversight, knowing full well, it might result in wide government scrutiny of his actions. What Funk couldn’t have known at the time, is that his brave action would shortly result in full vindication of, not only himself, but also the Black Box Voting organization which for many years, had been ignored, vilified, made fun of, and even had their website illegally shut down by Diebold.
For the first time, the terrible threat of the voting machines had received full national coverage! Something hundreds of computer scientists and voting rights activists had been fighting for. Even wider acknowledgment, and proof of the dangers of computerized voting, came shortly after, when the Brennan report was released.
Diebold had sent a letter to state officials stating that Mr. Funks actions may have breached the contract entered into between themselves, the Lt. Governors office, and Emery county, and that the warranty of the machines might be in jeopardy. When asked by Blackwell if he could understand why the county thought they might be headed into litigation, he answered, under oath, “No. Because I had tried to do everything on my own to protect Emery county. I protected Emery county to the best of my ability from any liability.”
Mr. Funk made sure that BBV’s inspection of the Diebold voting machines, was properly documented on videotape. One of the reasons he decided to keep his job was to make sure the same kind of documentation was preformed when Diebold had access to Utah’s voting equipment. Remarkably, the BBV efforts revealed that closed door access to individual machines would not even be necessary to change the results of an election if you could get access to the central tabulator.
Diebold has been sued at least three times, and had already lost two of those lawsuits before the state made the purchase of the machines. The state continues to give Diebold unrestricted access to the machines and refuses to let Funk do his job protecting the integrity of the elections he’s been charged to oversee.
In my opinion, the state is not throwing any argument out in their defense of removing Funk from his position, and preventing him and us from access to what transpired in those secret meetings with Diebold, but it was obvious they are not comfortable with, publically impugning his character, professional competence or mental health, and seem to be grasping at his inability to “fairly run an election.”
Where is the press and television media? If it wasn’t Bruce Funk who said he was going to “hire” a lawyer. Who gave Glen Warchol that information?
Voting integrity genius Kathy Dopp is also owed an apology for not being recognized for her unrelenting commitment and thankless fight.
She alone, was the one who pressed the election officials here to buy the right system and has never stopped trying to keep the activists informed. I truly believe Utah would have been using a paperless DRE system without her work. It turns out that in Utah, the "paper trail" has no value anyway. Read on.
Recently, she went before the same archives commission here which denied Mr. Funk his request for the release of information which should be publicly available. In "Dopp vs Summit County", she was attempting to gain release of the voting records in her own election contest on February 8th, 2007. Amazingly, any and all election records are now deemed to be "election returns" and will not be seen, even by a candidate to determine if something went wrong. The records would later be destroyed without ever having been examined.
Joycelynn Straight, a witness called by Dopp and a true professional in Utah's fight for election transparency, was quick to refute attempts by the Summit County representative to complicate the arguments given.
The agents of the state arguing the case were careful to warn this action is to prevent "voter fraud". Dopp made the case that she cannot possibly prove fraud if she isn't allowed to even inspect the records tabulated by the voting machines. This did not dissuade the state from claiming she may attempt to alter the results in order to claim victory. Dopp said this would be tantamount to a banking customer changing his copy of a bank statement and claiming to have more money in his account then claimed by the bank.
This ludicrous argument did not go over with all of the committee members, one of whom asked the obvious question of why the election officials couldn't have more then one copy of the results which would be the official sealed and protected copy. The argument now familiar to voting integrity activists was invoked. To call into question the results of an election would be more dangerous then to actually know the results of that election.
In the end the committee member who had been puzzled the most by this absurd situation, called for a motion to deny the records. That motion was immediately embraced by the other members. The decision was based on the premise that the legislature had more work to do in clarifying the law and jokes were made by the Lt. governors attorney about "proverbial sausages" being cooked.
My side is aching, but not from laughter. Maybe from rotten sausage or maybe by the monotonous claim that our voting records must be sealed.
Or was that, concealed?