Lee Zurik Investigation: Registrar of voters can be a six-figure job - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Lee Zurik Investigation: Registrar of voters can be a six-figure job

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You've probably never heard of a public employee named Dennis DiMarco. But you may want his job.

He's the registrar of voters in Jefferson Parish. He's paid more than Parish President John Young, the governor, even the secretary of state, who oversees elections.
Dennis DiMarco makes $150,000 a year and will likely never lose his job.

The job is one that caught our attention this week in our ongoing investigation in St. Bernard Parish.

We shot video Tuesday, showing St. Bernard Parish Registrar of Voters Velma Bourg leaving her office. It's the only picture we have of her -- on the internet, nothing. Bourg told us by phone that she doesn't do TV interviews.

The secretary of state calls that position -- every parish's registrar of voter -- one of the last bastions of old-time Louisiana politics.

“The registrar of voters is appointed by parish government,” says Tom Schedler, “and there is no term of office there.”

In the case of St. Bernard Parish, the Parish Council appointed Velma Bourg. And Schedler says, once a registrar of voters gets the job, it's basically a lifetime appointment.

“There's only a few things you can be removed from office,” Schedler told us. “There is no term. Basically the vacancy occurs at death or some malfeasance in office.”

“No one has ever been removed?” we asked.

“Not in my time, that I know of,” Schedler replied. “I’ve had many a conversation with many a constituent who calls complaining about an R.O.V. or something, and demanding that I fire them. I don’t have the power to do that. It’s a self-policed organization.”

We've been spending the past few days going over the voting rolls in St. Bernard Parish, looking at people who have out-of-parish homestead exemptions but still vote in St. Bernard.

Schedler says it's the responsibility of the parish's registrar to oversee the rolls. The secretary of state says his office has little oversight over local voting rolls. And he has no say on who becomes a registrar of voters, or if they're even qualified for the job.

“Other than they’re being a resident of the parish and 18 years of age... that’s it, to my knowledge,” Schedler said.

The secretary of state hopes the legislature hears his concerns and creates a bill that ends the lifetime appointment. He thinks the position should possibly be one that's elected by the people.

In the case of voting in St. Bernard Parish, Schedler says someone had to make a formal complaint to the registrar of voter. But regardless, Schedler says she could have done more to police hundreds of voters who may be casting illegal ballots.

“If she's been getting these types of complaints, and if that’s known, they’ve attested to that, and she’s not at least looking at some of these addresses or some of these issues… at least do some test cases,” Schedler said. “That's minimally what she should have done.”

Velma Bourg in St. Bernard Parish makes $87,000 a year. Her salary is set by state law, and is paid with state and parish dollars.
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