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August 5, 2015

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Court hearing set over voter registration allegations

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Prosecutors and representing attorneys in the case against former ACORN employees Amy Busefink and Christopher Edwards appear Wednesday before District Court Judge William D. Jansen. From left, Chief Deputy Attorney General Conrad Hafen; attorney David Rickert of the attorney general’s office; Kevin Stolworthy of Jones Vargas, representing Amy Busefink; and deputy public defender Dan Silverstein, representing Christopher Edwards.

Updated Wednesday, July 15, 2009 | 4:54 p.m.

An organization that registered voters for the presidential election and two of its former employees will have a preliminary hearing Sept. 29 to determine if there is enough evidence to move forward with allegations that it illegally compensated canvassers.

Attorneys for the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now, Inc., also known as ACORN, appeared in Clark County District Court today.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Conrad Hafen said he intends to call about four witnesses at the hearing to show that ACORN illegally compensated canvassers using a quota system. ACORN officials this afternoon disputed the claims.

The complaint includes 39 counts tied to paying bonuses to employees if they surpassed registering 20 people during a shift. The complaint alleges ACORN also fired those who didn't meet the requirement.

ACORN employed canvassers to register people to vote in Nevada in 2008 and paid them between $8 and $9 per hour.

Employees could receive a $5 bonus under a program, called "Blackjack" or "21+," if they registered 21 or more people, according to the complaint.

Clare Crawford, deputy political director for the national organization, said this afternoon in a phone interview that the only office in the country that used the Blackjack system was the one in Las Vegas.

Christopher Edwards, field director for the Las Vegas office, created the Blackjack program, which the national office did not condone and explicitly prohibited, Crawford said.

“It was implemented by a single manager in a single state,” she said.

The 20 registrations per shift was the guideline but did not determine employment status, she said.

Employees were fired for various reasons but not because they failed to meet the guideline, Crawford said. Employees collected 13 cards per shift on average, she said.

“We feel that the complaint is not factually accurate in describing the way the program was run,” Crawford said.

Bonuses were paid only to employees who had to use their own vehicle and to team leaders for training new employees, Crawford said.

ACORN timesheets indicate that corporate officers of ACORN were aware of the Blackjack bonus program and failed to take immediate action to stop it, according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges that Amy Busefink, ACORN's deputy regional director, was aware of the Blackjack program and aided and abetted the scheme by approving Edwards' bonus program.

Edwards and Busefink are the only two ACORN employees charged. Neither currently works for the organization, Crawford said. Edwards left when the registration program ended and Busefink sought employment elsewhere.

The investigation began following a complaint filed with the Secretary of State's office by Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax. Lomax's office received a significant number of voter registration application forms that appeared to be fraudulent, he has said, although none of the irregular forms ended up in the November election.

State investigators confiscated records at ACORN's Las Vegas office on Oct. 7.

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