June 1, 2023 / Modified feb 23, 2024 1:26 p.m.

Former Cochise County Elections Dir. gets $130K settlement payout

The county will pay $75,000 of the $130,000 settlement

cochise county seal The seal of Cochise County.

The former Cochise County Elections Director Lisa Marra has received a $130,000 settlement payout relating to Marra’s claims that the work environment was hostile. The payment was first reported by the Herald/Review.

The settlement was signed by all parties and Marra received the $130,000 settlement payout on May 1. Jane Montgomery, the Cochise County Public Information Officer, told AZPM that the county’s risk management insurance through the Arizona Counties Insurance Pool (ACIP) will pay $55,000 of the $130,000 settlement, and the county will pay $75,000. She said that the $75,000 is the county’s deductible for this case.

“The county does not yet know what our premium will be for FY23-24, but we do not anticipate that it will increase,” said Montgomery, in an email Wednesday evening. “Last year’s premium was $859,226.”

Marra submitted her notice of constructive discharge to the county via her attorney Paige Pataky on January 24, accusing the county of “outrageous and physically and emotionally threatening” conduct. Pataky wrote that Marra was compelled to resign to protect her health and safety.

According to Arizona law, the county has 15 days to respond to the employee’s grievance. Marra’s resignation became final on February 9.

Marra primarily pointed to the actions of Supervisors Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd for perpetuating the hostile work environment. Judd and Crosby filed a lawsuit against her last November to try to coerce her to conduct an expanded hand count audit of the 2022 general election.

Marra now is the Deputy Elections Director for the Arizona Secretary of State. AZPM attempted to contact Marra for comment, and a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office said that Marra is not doing any more interviews on the topic and that she is not confirming any information "beyond what's already been reported."

Background

Crosby and Judd, both Republican members of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors, pushed for a 100% hand count audit of the 2022 midterm election under the assertion, fueled by some members of the public, that the ballot tabulation machines weren’t accurate and should be cross-checked with a 100% hand count audit.

In their attempts to do so, a lawsuit came in from the Arizona Alliance of Retired Americans, who sued the county and some of its elected officials according to the Associated Press.

That lawsuit aimed to halt the 100% hand count audit of all early ballots of the 2022 general election.

Pima County Judge Casey McGinley ruled on November 7 that the board had overstepped its authority to order a 100% hand count audit and he placed a hold on the hand count, thus, preventing the effort from taking place the AP reported.

In response, the two supervisors delayed certifying the election the first time on November 18 and once again on November 28, missing the state’s deadline for certification of the election.

Both Republican supervisors said on November 18 that they wanted extra assurance from the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office that the voting machines in Cochise County were certified for accuracy.

Then state Elections Director Kori Lorick said in the November 18 meeting of the Board of Supervisors that the voting machines had been tested and certified for accuracy.

Yet both Crosby and Judd persisted with their delay in certifying the election. At the November 28 meeting, Crosby said he was frustrated that the meeting agenda did not provide an opportunity for those opposed to certification to speak.

That prompted then Secretary of State Katie Hobbs to file a lawsuit against the Cochise County Board of Supervisors, which resulted in a court ordering them to certify the election results.

After taking a brief hiatus from discussing election-related topics, Crosby and Judd brought the issue back to the table in February of this year by approving an agreement that moves administrative authority over the county’s elections department to the County Recorder David Stevens — an action that also triggered yet another lawsuit filed this time by Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, who wrote in the suit that the board’s agreement “purports to give to the Cochise County Recorder almost all of the elections powers and duties conferred by statute upon the Cochise County Board of Supervisors.”

But that lawsuit ended up swinging in Judd and Crosby’s favor, and Santa Cruz County Judge Thomas Fink denied the Attorney General’s request for a preliminary injunction on the agreement the board approved with its county recorder.

The county has since hired a new elections director to replace Marra. On April 25, the board voted 2-1 along party lines to approve the appointment of Bob Bartelsmeyer as Elections Director for Cochise County amid concerns from constituents about his qualifications and social media posts about the 2020 election.

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