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Lehigh Valley Election News

Northampton County executive's top administrator resigns in wake of Election Day embarrassment

Northampton County Courthouse, Easton, Pa.,
Donna S. Fisher
For LehighValleyNews.com
Northampton County Courthouse in Easton, Northampton County, Pa. in January, 2023.

EASTON, Pa. - Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure's top lieutenant resigned Friday, a victim of the Election Day problems that plagued the county.

McClure said he accepted the resignation of Director of Administration Charles M. Dertinger "with deep regret."

The two Democrats served together as county council members years ago and McClure tapped Dertinger in 2018 to serve in his top administrative post after McClure became executive.

Dertinger could not be immediately reached for comment. The director of administration oversees the county's elections division.

Earlier in the day Friday, he attended a routine election audit recount in the elections office within the county government center.

Election Day on Nov. 7 got off to a rocky start when poll workers discovered a problem with voting machines. Errors with the machines' printout summaries led officials to stop using the machines temporarily and rely on emergency paper ballots.

McClure that day said he was "livid" with the problems that should have been caught in testing by the county elections office and the company that supplies the machines. He vowed that there would be consequences.

Charles Dertinger
Tom Shortell
Charles Dertinger, who served as director of administration for Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure since 2018, speaks during a meeting Nov. 21, 2023, in which the county elections board certified the results of the Nov. 7 election. McClure accepted Dertinger's resignation Nov. 24, citing failures in the Nov. 7 election.

"Mr. Dertinger has spent nearly six years honorably serving the people of Northampton County in my Administration," McClure said in a written statement. "While the 2019 and 2023 elections were failures under his leadership of the Elections Division, the ’20, ’21, and ’22 elections were nearly flawless, as any complicated human activity can expect to be."

Dertinger and McClure are longtime political allies.

"Mr. Dertinger and I have been working together on a shared vision of county governance since at least 2005," McClure said. "Many of the things I care about, he cared about first. The preservation of open and green space comes to mind. Many of the successes of our Administration have come due to his efforts in helping implement our initiatives."

McClure credited Dertinger with leading the team that built the county's new forensics center during the pandemic. The executive said the project came in on time and under budget — "a feat that's normally impossible to achieve, let alone during a time of stay-at-home orders and massive supply chain disruptions."

But their relationship apparently couldn't overcome the embarrassment of Election Day 2023. Some, including Republican state Rep. Milou Mackenzie, called for McClure to resign in the aftermath of another round of voting machine woes.

"Despite his Election failures of 2019 and 2023, the foregoing reasons stated is why his resignation is regrettable. I wish him well in his future endeavors," McClure said of Dertinger.

McClure blamed this year's problems on a programming error with the county’s ES&S ExpressVote XL machines. While he maintained that all votes were recorded in the machines correctly, the error caused the names of two state Superior Court judges up for retention to switch places on the printed slip voters look over before submitting their ballots.

It wasn't the first time the machines have had problems.

When they were first used in 2019, officials found that a county judicial candidate had no votes. Further investigation determined that electronic votes for Abe Kassis were not being saved. The election was salvaged because the print receipts correctly recorded the votes, and Kassis went on to win a spot as Northampton County judge.