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Election recount requester appeals debt to County Clerk-Recorder

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A local resident responsible for the hand recount of two separate county supervisor races is now feeling financial and legal pinches for her decisions.

In May, San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Elaina Cano sued San Miguel resident Darcia Stebbens in small claims court for unpaid expenses stemming from manually recounting votes cast in the 2nd District county supervisor election.

STILL ONGOING San Miguel's Darcia Stebbens appealed the small claims court ruling that demanded she reimburse the San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder's Office with $4,448.21 for an election recount. - FILE PHOTO BY PETER JOHNSON
  • File Photo By Peter Johnson
  • STILL ONGOING San Miguel's Darcia Stebbens appealed the small claims court ruling that demanded she reimburse the San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder's Office with $4,448.21 for an election recount.

Stebbens requested the do-over on Dec. 12, 2022, five days after the final election count showed incumbent Bruce Gibson ahead of challenger Bruce Jones by 13 votes. According to an invoice provided to KSBY in May, recounting votes for the race cost the county Clerk-Recorder's Office $52,325.74.

"Ms. Stebbens paid the required estimated daily deposits but there is still a balance due based on the actual costs directly related to the recount," Cano wrote in her court claim.

Cano said that Stebbens owes her office $4,448.21 plus $90 of filing fees incurred in making the small courts claim. Superior Court Commissioner Leslie Kraut ruled in Cano's favor in August. On Sept. 14, Stebbens retorted with an appeal. The small court case will return on Dec. 4 as a trial de novo hearing—an appellate court order where the facts and issues of the case will be discussed as if for the first time.

Stebbens didn't respond to New Times' requests for comment.

Court documents show that Stebbens' outstanding debt is part of an exceeded sum. In January, the county notified her that the actual cost of the recount overshot the estimated deposits by roughly $7,370.

That amount constituted elements like the hourly costs of every employee or recount board member involved with the recount, time spent by board members counting ballots, making copies, securing supplies, and time spent sorting ballot boxes to locate the 2nd District election ballots.

Stebbens challenged the county and said she was "contesting ... the final true-up." She added that she was entitled to additional reports requested during the recount and a list of labor costs detailing the activities of the employees. After County Counsel Rita Neal shot back with a demand to pay, Stebbens paid a little less than $3,000 in February. That left behind the still-unpaid balance close to $4,450.

At the subpoena hearing in July, Stebbens testified that she was suspicious about costs being imposed as part of the California Code of Regulations—the set of rules that require Cano to collect a deposit from the recount requester to cover daily estimates.

Stebbens also objected to "paying employee benefits/pension costs accrued during the hours worked on the recount, county counsel legal costs incurred during the recount, and the amount of time needed for preparation prior to commencement of the recount," the ruling read. Δ

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