Ferguson: ‘No authority’ to investigate

Published 11:30 pm Friday, October 22, 2010

The Commonwealth’s Attorney has no grounds to investigate a complaint lodged by an ex-voter registrar against her former boss.

“This office has no authority to initiate any action regarding her complaint,” Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips “Phil” Ferguson said. “There’s nothing in this case that appears to me to constitute criminal misconduct.”

Sharon Thornhill filed the complaint against Electoral Board Secretary David Sylvia, saying she was forced to resign after confronting him about a sexually inappropriate email he sent her. She sent the complaint to Ferguson’s office, the State Board of Elections and the Circuit Court judges.

“I was forced to resign as Voter Registrar after I confronted David Sylvia about a very explicit pornographic e-mail he sent me,” Thornhill wrote. “His actions caused me extreme embarrassment, humiliation and anguish on my job, and led to many sleepless nights, physical distress and undue stress.”

The email, titled “14 steps to putting on a bikini,” arrived in Thornhill’s work inbox in April. It shows 14 photos of a naked woman having body paint applied to resemble a flower-print bikini.

Sylvia admits sending the email from his personal computer and email account but insists he did not intend to send it to Thornhill. He also says she tried to use it to blackmail him into getting a positive performance review.

According to state code, any attempt to remove Sylvia would have to come from the State Board of Elections. Only very specific circumstances would warrant the removal, including “neglect of duty, misuse of office or incompetence in the performance of duties when [such] has a material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office.”

Earlier this month, Suffolk’s Circuit Court judges declined to look into the situation after City Council requested an investigation.