Seaford City Council candidate alleges misconduct by the city

By Lynn R. Parks

Pat Jones, one of five candidates for Seaford City Council in Saturdays election, is alleging that the city acted to prevent members of the African-American community from voting.

Jones, who received just 99 votes and who did not win one of the two council seats that were up for election, is African-American. She was attempting to return to the seat that she held from 2002 to 2014.

Speaking by phone Tuesday morning, Mayor David Genshaw called her allegations completely false, adding that there is no basis for that at all.

Genshaw also criticized the fact that Jones used social media to voice her concerns. Putting something like that on Facebook is a waste of time, and shows poor judgement, he said. If she has a concern, she should bring it to the city so we can have a conversation about it. Dont be putting it online, just to cause trouble.

In a posting on her Facebook page, written the day of the election, Jones said that several of our citys African-American residents were turned away today from voting. The residents were registered to vote, she wrote. But somehow, their names couldnt be located.

She also called the citys voter registration process, which is separate from the process to register to vote in all other elections, antiquated.

Talking by phone Monday evening, Jones said that she knew of one person, Marcus Ashorobi, who was registered to vote but who was not allowed to cast a ballot after workers at the polls could not find his name on the citys registration log.

She also said that several people from the black community who showed up to vote shortly before 3 p.m., when the polls were scheduled to close, were turned away.

And she said that letters that were sent out by the city in January, telling people that they had been removed from the citys registration list, added confusion to the whole process. The letters, about 30 of them, were sent out incorrectly, a mistake that the city acknowledged and apologized for in a Jan. 16 posting on its Facebook page. An administrative error occurred during the review of the voter registration records, the city said. We have corrected the√Črecord by reinstating your record. New procedures have been implemented to minimize any future errors in the voter registration process.

Those letters were sent out immediately after I filed as a candidate, Jones said during the Monday telephone conversation. Several of my friends received letters. The reason for the letters was unclear, and there has been no accountability for the mistake.

Genshaw acknowledged that on Saturday, Ashorobi was turned away from the polls in error. Ashorobi had to leave city hall in time to get to his job in Ocean City, Md. It wasnt until after he was gone that poll workers were able to locate his name in the registration book. It had been misspelled when it was entered in the book.

Talking by phone Wednesday morning, Ashorobi said that he was very disappointed when he was turned away from the polls. I knew that I had registered, he said. It was my first year trying to vote and I was a little bit upset that I couldnt. I live in Seaford and I was very happy to go to city hall to vote.

He also said that since the incident, he hasnt heard from anyone with the city.

He declined, though, to attribute the situation to the fact that he is African-American. I dont get into the black-white thing, he said. Something just seemed not right with the process.

As for Jones allegation that people who showed up at the polls just before closing were turned away, Genshaw denied that that happened. I was at city hall when the polls closed, and I did not see any people coming to vote, nor did I see any people who were turned away, he said.

And as for the letters that the city sent out in January, notifying people that their names had been removed from the citys voter registration list, Genshaw said that in addition to its announcement on Facebook, the city sent out new letters, a week later, on Jan. 17, informing the people who were affected of the error.

Genshaw agrees with Jones that the city needs to find a better way to get its residents registered to vote. Employees have been looking at options, he said, and he expects that a proposal will come before city council in the next few months.

Jones said that she entered the race without any expectation that she would win. She traces what she calls the citys blacklisting of her back to her time on the city council and her decision in 2012 to run for mayor. Jones did not win that election; several months later, when Mayor Bill Bennett left the position to accept a job with the city, the council appointed Genshaw, a relative newcomer, to fill Bennetts seat. In 2014, Jones lost her bid for another term on the city council.

I would like to say, for the record, how disappointed I am that I was overlooked, Jones said in 2013, following the councils vote to appoint Genshaw mayor. I ran for the mayors seat in the last election and I was not considered by my colleagues for this position.

She accused her fellow council members of talking together before the meeting, and of making the decision to appoint Genshaw behind closed doors.

On Monday, Jones said that it has been obvious that I have been on the blacklist since then. She added: People supported me when I was sitting on the end of the council table as a councilwoman. But they had a problem with me sitting in the middle of the table, as mayor. They turned against me because I wanted to run the meetings and wanted to run the town.

Jones stopped short of saying for certain that the city as an entity worked to ensure that she wasnt elected. But I absolutely believe that they did not want me there, she added.

Genshaw praised all of the people, including Jones, who ran in this years election. We had a great selection of candidates, all good people and all of them worthy of serving, he said. To me, having that number of candidates is an indication that people want to be part of a good thing, of something thats moving forward.

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