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North Castle Election Inspector Alleges Discrimination

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A longtime North Castle election inspector has filed a complaint with the state Division of Human Rights alleging the Westchester County Board of Elections (BOE) engaged in discriminatory behavior for failing to assign her without explanation.

North Castle
Armonk resident Geri Mariano filed a complaint with the state Division of Human Rights. Mariano is pictured above at a July celebration of the 32nd anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act in White Plains.

Geri Mariano, who began serving as a Republican inspector in 1989 after college graduation, said over the past six years, she’s been increasingly treated as an outcast by BOE personnel. Mariano was born with the congenital condition of Diastrophic Dysplasia, a form of dwarfism. Since 2014, the year before she had two back surgeries, Mariano has used a wheelchair.

Mariano charged she wasn’t assigned for the November 2021 general election despite completing the annual online training. She said she tried to contact Republican Commissioner Douglas Colety after failing to receive an assignment last year but received no answers.

On Oct. 28, 2021, Mariano, an Armonk resident, said she traveled to BOE offices in White Plains in hopes of understanding why she’d been overlooked and was assured an explanation. 

“It’s really sad,” Mariano said. “It’s just like my whole 30 years of work, with breaks here and there, is just wiped away.”

After last year’s election, Mariano hoped to speak with Colety or other BOE officials but wanted to wait until there was an opportune time. Between the hectic post-election schedule, the holidays, and then the unexpected January death of Democratic Election Commissioner Reginald LaFayette, she never followed up.

Finally, on Sept. 1, 2022, Mariano wrote Colety a letter hoping for an explanation “as to why my 30 years of experience was summarily dismissed without reason and notice.”

After no response, she sent the complaint to the Division of Human Rights on Oct. 5.

“I made the decision on my own to go ahead with (the complaint) because I’m really frustrated,” said Mariano, a motivational speaker.

“I’m not getting any answers. They expect me to slink away, and I just decided to go for it,” she added.

In addition to Colety, other BOE officials named by Mariano in the complaint are Deputy Republican Commissioner Dorothy DiPalo, Republican Election Inspector Coordinator Jaime Scuderi, and Jonathan Cannella, a Republican election inspector coordinator and supervisor.

There was no response last week and Monday to The Examiner’s attempts to reach Colety and Democratic Commissioner Tajian Nelson by phone and e-mail.

Mariano, who initially served at North Castle’s District 1 polling place at the Banksville firehouse before being transferred to District 6 at the Armonk firehouse, said she noticed a change in 2016. After taking 2015 off mainly because of the death of her parents, Mariano returned the next year but wasn’t given anything to do, she said.

She wasn’t assigned in 2017, then worked on Election Day for the next two years. Because of a shortage of poll workers in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns, Mariano said she wanted to work but was given a “demotion” to a poll entrance worker, someone who welcomes voters and directs them to the correct table.

She decided to withdraw herself from consideration after failing to receive permission to have friends check on her throughout the 16-hour day.

Mariano said she’s also been told she talked too much to voters when they came to the polling place and had heard comments questioning whether she was mobile enough to alternate working the table and machines. 

Last year and this year, Mariano received a mailed postcard asking people to consider becoming inspectors; a need remains, she noted.

“They have the obligation, where if they have concerns, they should talk to me about it,” Mariano said.

According to material provided by the Division of Human Rights, investigators conduct interviews and evaluate evidence, which would result in either a finding of probable cause or no probable cause. If it’s the latter, there are 60 days to appeal.

After most probable cause findings, there’s an attempt to settle the matter. If that cannot be achieved, a hearing is scheduled before an administrative law judge. If there’s a finding in favor of the complainant, remedies can include policy changes, training, fines, and/or damages. 

Mariano isn’t seeking monetary damages. She’d like an apology, a meeting with BOE officials, and reasonable accommodations to allow her to work. She doesn’t intend to work past 2024.

After experiencing discrimination throughout her life, Mariano said the experience has been especially hurtful.

“It’s a dagger through my heart,” she said.

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