City asks for email investigation

Published 10:44 pm Friday, September 24, 2010

Suffolk City Council wants an investigation by Suffolk’s Circuit Court judges into alleged misconduct by a member of the local Electoral Board.

Councilman Charles Brown, who is up for re-election in November, suggested the move Wednesday at the City Council retreat. He had earlier called for an investigation to be conducted, but this time council members voted unanimously to send a letter to the judges. The city’s Circuit Court judges make Electoral Board appointments from lists submitted by the city’s political parties.

David Sylvia, the secretary of the Electoral Board, has admitted to sending a sexually inappropriate email to the city’s voter registrar in April. Sharon Thornhill left her position in August after confronting him about the risqué email during her performance review.


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The email contained photographs of a naked woman having body paint applied over the span of 14 different frames. Sylvia says he meant to send the missive only to four friends, and did not realize others had received it until Thornhill told him about it.

“How this occurred, whether it was some magic keystroke, or a virus, I don’t know,” Sylvia said earlier this month. “It certainly was not an intentional email.”

Sylvia also contends that the email had nothing to do with Thornhill’s dismissal from her post, which he says was based on years of poor performance and complaints from the State Board of Elections and other workers in the Suffolk office.

In their letter to Judges Rodham T. Delk Jr. and Carl E. Eason Jr., City Council members claim they fear the publicity of the dispute and alleged misconduct have “undermined the public confidence that upcoming elections can be conducted fairly, efficiently and in compliance with the law.”

“With the upcoming November election season quickly approaching, this lack of confidence is of heightened concern,” continues the letter, which is signed by Mayor Linda T. Johnson. “The recent publicity coupled with the continued vacancy of the position of the Registrar has led Council by unanimous vote to direct this correspondence.”

The letter concludes by asking the judges to investigate the situation.

According to Clerk of Circuit Court Randy Carter’s interpretation of the relevant state law, however, the State Board of Elections must make the request to the Circuit Court for the removal of a local electoral board member.

“The removal is set forth pretty plainly,” Carter said. “Somebody has to file a petition.”

According to the state code, the Circuit Court should proceed with removal when it receives a petition signed by a majority of the members of the State Board of Elections. The petition should state the grounds for removal, the state code says. Upon the filing of the petition, the officer in question would be required to show cause why he should not be removed from office.