On April 28, Otero County and EchoMail came to a settlement agreement ending the contract for EchoMail to do a forensic audit of the 2020 General election in Otero County.
On May 12, Otero County ratified that settlement agreement.
"It is rather disappointing, you know," Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin said May 12. "We entered into this contract with the understanding that we were gonna get a full audit done. I feel like our commission board in Otero County was ready to provide the canvass to do whatever we needed to do."
The $49,750 contract to EchoMail to perform the 2020 Otero County Election Audit was unanimously approved at the Jan. 13 Otero County Commission meeting.
The settlement agreement showed that EchoMail found no fraud in the work it did on the Otero County 2020 Election Audit.
Otero County paid EchoMail the first half of the contracted amount, $24,875, on Feb. 24 and requested a $15,125 refund on April 15.
Otero County evaluated the work EchoMail submitted and found that EchoMail only did $9,750 worth of work. EchoMail disputed the County's claim stating in the settlement agreement that it had done the work it said it would do according to the contract.
This work done was creating an integrated data warehouse and analyzing voter registrations and ballots cast at the precinct level.
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"(The audit) process started and there was a lot of controversy: Congress weighed in, the House Oversight Committee sent letters to (EchoMail President and CEO) Dr. Shiva (Ayyadurai)," Nichols said at a May 9 Otero County Commission special meeting.
"The check is in the mail on the money (EchoMail) is sending back to us," Otero County Attorney R.B. Nichols said on May 12. "Based on that, I believe EchoMail made a determination that they didn't want to be involved in some of the controversy, the political nature of the issues essentially."
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The House Oversight and Reform Committee opened an investigation into EchoMail and New Mexico Audit Force following complaints about the canvass being performed by New Mexico Audit Force volunteers.
New Mexico Audit Force, which is run by former New Mexico State University professor David Clements and his wife Erin Clements, was named in the EchoMail contract cover letter that EchoMail will "Perform door-to-door canvass of Otero County voter registration database to determine accuracy of voter registration database. Canvass will be staffed by volunteers under the direction of New Mexico Audit Force (“Volunteers”) with guidance from EchoMail."
EchoMail denied its affiliation with the volunteer canvassers.
"EchoMail has no canvassers be it in Otero County or any other part of the country or world," a March 18 letter from EchoMail head V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai to the Committee states. "Neither has Otero County contracted EchoMail to do door-to-door canvassing nor has EchoMail contracted any other party to do any door-to-door canvassing in Otero County."
The canvass was completed, according to Erin Clements.
"There are several other aspects of the election system and data that are being examined by qualified professionals," Erin Clements said via email on May 19. “New Mexico Audit Force is providing data and coordinating discussions among the team."
Clements did not provide names for the members or the team of qualified professionals stating that she preferred to keep the names of people on the "team confidential until it is time for them to testify before the (Otero County) Commission. At that time their qualifications to testify on their various portions of the analysis will be established for the public," she said in the May 19 email.
News of the settlement agreement reached House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney was gratified by the settlement agreement
“I am pleased that Otero County and EchoMail cancelled their so-called election ‘audit’ and canvass after my Committee launched an investigation and referred their potentially illegal conduct to the Justice Department," Maloney said. "Unfortunately, this sham audit has already inflicted harm by spreading false conspiracy theories, intimidating voters, and damaging the integrity of our elections."
Maloney said that the Committee will continue investigating "election disinformation efforts that threaten to undermine the foundation of our democracy—in New Mexico and throughout the country."
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This article originally appeared on Alamogordo Daily News: County ratifies EchoMail settlement, door-to-door canvass completed