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Recount requester cross-examines clerk-recorder

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Darcia Stebbens—the San Miguel resident feuding with San Luis Obispo County over an unpaid debt stemming from her requested manual election recount—cross-examined the county clerk-recorder on Dec. 7 while representing herself in court.

For roughly two hours, Stebbens asked County Clerk-Recorder Elaina Cano about the cost of retallying votes for last year's 2nd District Supervisor race between Bruce Gibson and Bruce Jones.

NO OBLIGATION SLO County-Clerk Recorder Elaina Cano (pictured) told election recount requester Darcia Stebbens in court on Dec. 7 that there are no statutes requiring her to provide a detailed invoice as Stebbens asked. Cano added that her submission of estimated cost breakdowns is in accordance with the law. - FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF ELAINA CANO
  • File Photo Courtesy Of Elaina Cano
  • NO OBLIGATION SLO County-Clerk Recorder Elaina Cano (pictured) told election recount requester Darcia Stebbens in court on Dec. 7 that there are no statutes requiring her to provide a detailed invoice as Stebbens asked. Cano added that her submission of estimated cost breakdowns is in accordance with the law.

Stebbens still owes Cano's office almost $5,000 of a $53,346 total bill. Cano filed a small claims court case against Stebbens in May, which Superior Court Commissioner Leslie Kraut ruled Stebbens must pay. The day in SLO Superior Court on Dec. 7 was part of Stebbens' appeal of Kraut's decision.

During the cross-examination, the two-time election recount requester leafed through a thick sheaf of documents that served as "exhibits" in the trial. Those papers included the California Code of Regulations, letters and emails between Stebbens and the County-Clerk Recorder's Office, spreadsheets of the initial estimated costs, and estimated daily costs of the seven-day recount.

Stebbens took issue with Cano for not providing her an invoice for every expense even though the exhibits detailed descriptions of fees like the daily rate of the recount workers and the costs for copies and supplies. It's one of the five issues she raised in her original complaint for the appeal.

"It's not an invoice," Stebbens said. "It's a very nice schedule actually, and it does have detail."

Cano replied from the witness stand that she's not obligated to submit invoices to Stebbens.

"There are no statutes that require me to provide you with a detailed invoice," she said. "What I provided you is in accordance with the law."

Stebbens continued questioning her about different expenses, often repeating herself and frequently focusing on a clerks' conference that Cano attended last December in Sacramento.

Cano and her colleagues traveled to the state capital last year during the preparation period before the recount started. She told Stebbens that she and her staff worked overtime in their hotel during the conference to prepare for the manual recount.

Eventually, presiding Judge Rita Federman asked Stebbens to move on to the next question.

"I don't want to hear repeated testimony," Federman said. "I'm taking notes."

Stebbens laughed in response and thanked the judge. She then interrupted Cano while the county-clerk recorder was answering a question about the costs incurred. After Federman told Stebbens not to interrupt, Stebbens continued to read from different documents in the exhibit package. It provoked two interruptions from the judge.

"It is usually really never required during trial to read out material already in front of everyone," Federman said. "You don't have to read it. We have it all in front of us."

The judge halted the trial for the day a little past noon. The court will reconvene on Dec. 19 to finish the cross-examination, present witnesses, and listen to final arguments.

"I'm going to ask the parties to really focus on the questions they want to ask," Federman said. "Small court claims are usually done in 30 minutes. We've gone above three hours." Δ

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