Election tasks performed under contract for the county by a close associate of former Registrar Ray Ortiz can be done for far less money by the county's own employees and temporary workers, acting Registrar of Voters Keith Boyer said Wednesday.
Boyer's comments in an interview and a report to Chief Administrator Norman Hickey cast doubt on Ortiz's contention that the contracts with a private Escondido firm saved the county money.
Ortiz quit his job Sept. 1 amid a district attorney's investigation that focused on his conduct as registrar, including any role he played in steering more than $400,000 in county work to Election Data Corp. Election Data's president, Richard Stephens, is a close friend of Ortiz.
Among the tasks performed by Election Data for the county since 1984 were the checking of signatures on petitions, the preparation of kits for poll sites and the assembly of automatic vote recorders.
According to Boyer, each of these jobs was performed by county employees and temporary workers for the last six months at a cost far below the last price charged by Election Data.
Boyer said it cost county workers 36 cents per signature to verify more than 100,000 names on petitions filed with the county in June and July. Election Data charged the county 67 cents per signature for similar work performed at the same time.
County workers prepared 1,750 kits of materials to be used by poll workers in the Nov. 4 election at a cost of $1.08 per kit, Boyer said. Election Data charged the county $3 each for 1,648 kits prepared for the June primary.
It cost the county $1.27 each to assemble the punch-card vote recorders used for the general election, Boyer said. Election Data charged the county $4.50 per recorder in the primary.
Overall, the county did the three jobs for $54,938, compared to the $128,315 the work would have cost under the most recent contracts with Election Data.
Boyer said his figures include the cost of the workers, supervisors and management but not general county overhead, which would account for costs incurred in support of the registrar by such departments as purchasing, general services and the chief administrator.
Boyer argues that any general overhead involved in hiring temporary workers to do the jobs would be offset in his analysis by the absence of the cost of administering the Election Data contracts.
Even if the overhead were counted, the county costs would be less than Election Data's, Boyer said.
Boyer said his analysis was not intended to show that Ortiz was wrong to suggest that the election chores be performed by private contract. He declined to discuss details of Ortiz's decisions because those matters are part of the investigation by the district attorney and the San Diego County Grand Jury.
"I'm not trying to say anything about what happened before," he said. "You have to compare (the county's work) with something. If we had the same contract today, instead of doing it ourselves, this is what the difference would have been."
Stephens, in an interview with The Times, said he doubted that the county could perform the work at the costs cited by Boyer.
"I'm sure that when they are looked into on a realistic basis they'll find that those figures are not correct," Stephens said.
Ortiz was not available for comment Wednesday.