District 22 State Representative candidate David Kolbe filed a formal complaint Monday alleging impropriety by Republican nominee Curt Nisly.
Kolbe, the Democrat candidate, alleges a “substantial appearance of impropriety and potentially an unfair campaign advantage to Nisly” in his filing with the Indiana Election Commission. The complaint centers on Nisley’s web company and an Elkhart County government webpage.
Pam Galloway, media contact and committee chairperson for Nisly, said this morning they haven’t heard anything from the IEC about the complaint and are witholding comment until they hear from it.
According to a copy of the complaint, Nisly, through his web business C-Tech Solutions Inc., secured a public contract with the Elkhart County clerk to design and possibly maintain the home web page for the clerk’s office. The site, www.elkhartcountyclerk.com, fails to display proper information for the clerk’s office nor does it mention the clerk by name.
The complaint states that in reality the site is the Elkhart County Election Board homepage and – until about Aug. 13 – provided a direct link to C-Tech and the candidate’s campaign for District 22. Included were campaign logos, Facebook link, blogs, campaign website and donation platform.
Besides using a public website to market Nisly’s campaign, it also confers a potential unfair advantage to the candidate as he may have access to voter data unavailable to other candidates, according to the complaint.
The complaint states, “The fact that this link appears to have been active since April is very troubling to us for a variety of reasons. First, the IP address of anyone who accesses the Elkhart County clerk’s website is stored on a server. To the extent that Curt Nisly, through C-Tech Solutions, serves as the network administrator, he can then access the IP addresses of possible voters who visited the site looking for information on their registration status and where they can vote, etc.”
With the IP addresses, Nisly and his campaign can find the physical addresses of these potential voters, the complaint states. Targeted mailings can then be sent or door-to-door visits planned.
“Additionally, even if C-Tech does not serve as website administrator for the clerk/election board website, the company is allowed to advertise on each page of the site which attracts potential voters to C-Tech and Nisly campaign information. Again, voter information and IP addresses are obtainable. These conditions constitute unfair advantages for his campaign,” the complaint states.
Elkhart County Clerk Republican Wendy Hudson also is “potentially complicit by allowing Mr. Nisly to design and possibly to maintain the network of the county clerk’s website,” the complaint alleges. It questions why it was necessary to bring in an outside web designer when the county has its own IT department and a county website already exists at elkhartcountyindiana.com, which does not appear to be contracted out to a private company.
The complaint questions the security of the county clerk’s website since it appears to be on a separate server from the county’s official website.
“We assert that it is a conflict of interest for Ms. Hudson, who is also the secretary of the Elkhart County Election Board, to allow a candidate to have access to user data of possible voters and for voters to be just one click away from his candidate information,” the complaint states.
On the C-Tech website, Nisly states that his business designed his campaign website. “However, his CFA pre-primary filing submitted by his treasurer, John Elliott, shows no in-kind contribution or expenditure to C-Tech Solutions for design of the website. Rather, it shows an expenditure of $600 to HS Enterprises for design of website,” the complaint states.
The complaint states that while HS Enterprises presents itself as a limited liability corporation, no such business exists with the Indiana Secretary of State. The principal of HS Enterprises LLC is Andrew Gould, general manager of C-Tech Solutions Inc.
Curt Nisly’s wife, Mary Nisly, also serves as a member on the Elkhart County Voter Center Committee and as the Elkhart County Republican Party chairwoman. That raises the issue of a conflict of interest, the complaint contends.
“Even more troubling than the fact that C-Tech may manage the website of the clerk is our concern about any possible relationship between the technology needed to operate Vote Centers in Elkhart County and C-Tech Solutions. Voting Center technology is designed to prevent a voter from voting multiple times in the county. We contend that if the Republican nominee and C-Tech Solutions are allowed to manage the data transfer, they could potentially alter someone’s voting status and prevent the person from voting. We would like the Indiana Election Commission to investigate exactly who controls this technology and to ensure that there are safeguards to prevent the falsification of data,” the complaint reads.
Indiana Election Commission Co-Director Trent Deckard this morning said there were a lot of exhibits submitted by Kolbe to review. The complaint was issued to the IEC, a bipartisan committee, just Monday so it’s too early for him to comment specifically on it.
Deckard did provide a rundown of the procedure on such complaints.
Deckard said it would be up to the election commission chair to call and issue a hearing on the complaint. When a hearing is called, he said the committee would consider the complaint. After the hearing and review, it would then be considered where to forward the complaint to, whether that is a prosecutor or “anyone who has a stake in this.”
The timeline and how the hearing progresses is up to the chair to determine. Deckard said the timeline is not bound by the election. The IEC is very deliberative and detailed in its research, he said.
If a hearing or meeting is called, Deckard said it would be advertised and information would be distributed to the media. The IEC also maintains a website where announcements are made, at www.in.gov/sos/elections/2404.htm or a person can Google IEC.