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Election Irregularities Charged

Janette Kimble, one of three ultraconservative Glendale school board members targeted by a recall effort, has been accused of interfering with voters at the Glendale nursing home where she works.

Two former county elections workers say Kimble attempted to prevent them from helping elderly residents at the Glencroft Retirement Community cast absentee ballots shortly before last November's election, in which Kimble won a seat on the Glendale Elementary School District governing board. The workers claim Kimble attempted to control the voting and her co-workers openly suggested that the residents should vote for her.

"Janette was very rude and unpleasant to us when we arrived to vote the people who had applied for absentee ballots," says Carol Goldstein, a temporary assistant in the special elections office of the Maricopa County Elections Department. "She went from wheelchair to wheelchair, actually shaking her finger in people's faces and saying, `Don't you remember we are going to have a class and tell you how to vote?' and `Your daughter is going to be very upset if you don't wait and vote with the rest of us.'"

Nolan "Fritz" Schmoldt, another temporary elections worker who accompanied Goldstein on the assignment, says Kimble "clearly upset people and coerced some of them into not voting at that time.

"She insisted on seeing the names on our list and then went down the list saying, `You don't have to vote this one, that one, and so forth,'" Schmoldt says. "When we insisted on voting the people who had applied for absentee ballots, the aides who wheeled them in to us were telling them, `Now don't forget Janette is running for the school board; you want to vote for her, don't you?'"

Kimble denies that she was attempting to influence the outcome of the election. Rather, she contends, she was trying to prevent a recurrence of problems that happened when residents cast absentee ballots during the primary election. "During the primary the county workers were voting the residents two at a time, not allowing them to have their privacy," Kimble says. "Because of that, prior to the general election I made arrangements for volunteers to assist our residents to vote at the polls, so they could vote in privacy as the law requires."

The county workers contend, however, that a large number of the residents had applied for absentee ballots and had asked for voting assistance from the county.

"I have no doubt that retirement home elected her--it's a big place," says Schmoldt, a Glendale retiree. "The shame is that they don't even pay taxes to that school district."

Kimble says she does not recall hearing anyone urge the residents to vote for her. "If you look at my [support], I got two or three hundred votes in every precinct," she says. "The secret of my success is that I got out and walked. I walked, door to door, and talked to people.

"I doubt I got more than 20 votes from the nursing home," Kimble says.
More than half of the 100 signatures on Kimble's nominating petition came from the nursing home and an associated retirement community, which houses close to 1,000 people in total, county election records show. She beat the unsuccessful incumbent by nearly 1,600 votes. Voting records show Kimble received more votes in the nursing home precinct than in any other, but also outstripped the incumbent in other precincts.

Schmoldt and Goldstein reported Kimble's alleged voter interference to their supervisor, Laura Maio, and to then-county elections director Michael Harty. Harty, however, declined to report the complaint to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, although he says he believes a violation of state election law occurred.

"I called Janette and she denied everything," Harty says. "I had the feeling then that she was lying to me, but I didn't have proof. I spoke to Janette in very strong terms about what the law says. I think I made it clear that I didn't believe her and that if I ever heard of anything else like that, I would take action. There was so much going on then, I think it just got swept under after that."

"It was kind of a case of `he said, she said,'" Harty says. "I don't recall being told that they directly witnessed intimidation. It was more like they got there and people who had applied for assistance were saying they didn't need our services."

Maio, however, says she and the two county workers were "very upset" when Harty failed to report the complaint to the County Attorney's Office, which provides legal services to the elections department.

Assistant county attorney Christina Sargeant says Kimble's alleged actions "sound highly improper," but adds that her office would pursue a criminal prosecution only if the alleged voter intimidation had influenced the outcome of an election. "We did not receive a report on this at the time," she says. "Normally, we hear of it from the losing candidate. County workers can go directly to the police if they believe a violation has occurred, because it is a criminal offense."

Maio says the county officials were afraid to circumvent Harty for fear of endangering their jobs.

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