July 17, 2002

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Send Haygood packing

IN ALL THE furor over Tammy Haygood's campaign to win reinstatement as San Francisco's election director (and make no mistake – this is a well-orchestrated campaign), the crucial point seems to have gotten lost: the Elections Commission had very good reasons for firing Haygood. The massive overspending on the March election was the final straw, but Haygood had serious problems well before that.

Let us not forget: Haygood was the one overseeing the Elections Department last November when dozens of boxes of ballots (containing, it turned out, the absentee ballots that made the final difference on the crucial public power measure, Proposition F, which lost by only 500 votes) were suddenly and inexplicably removed from City Hall and left unguarded for hours at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium and Pier 29. She was the one in charge when ballot-box tops were found floating in the bay (and she couldn't provide any credible answer for how they got there.) That alone cost her any hope of maintaining the trust of the public.

But even beyond that, Haygood demonstrated throughout the November and March elections that she completely failed to understand the importance of public information, transparent operations, and community input, which are absolutely essential to operating a successful Elections Department in this intensely political city. On election night Nov. 6, she lied to the press and public, saying no ballots had been removed from City Hall. Then, when it became clear ballot boxes were missing, she ducked questions and refused to explain what was happening.

The Elections Commission shouldn't have fired her in closed session (after she'd asked for an open hearing), but that's no grounds to give her the job back. If this continues, there's no way to avoid paying outside law firms a lot of money – City Attorney Dennis Herrera correctly decided that when one branch of the city is fighting with another branch, both need outside counsel. But there is a cheaper alternative: offer Haygood a decent settlement (enough money to pay her husband's medical bills, if, as the San Francisco Chronicle reports, that's really why she's fighting for her job) if she'll give up her claim and go away. It would be well worth the money (which we'll wind up paying out in legal fees anyway) to avoid even the possibility of Haygood ever running the Elections Department again.