A former top Cecil County elections official pleaded guilty to misconduct in office last week. She was then sentenced to three years’ supervised probation before judgment.
Lora Walters had been charged with misconduct in office, perjury, false entry in a public record, altering a public record and corrupt or fraudulent acts in the performance of official election duties, according to a criminal information filed in Cecil County Circuit Court.
She stepped down as deputy director of the Cecil County Board of Elections last year, after 14 years in that post.
According to Special Prosecutor Charlton Howard, Walters failed to collect a financial disclosure form, as required, from Cecil County Executive Danielle Hornberger (R) in 2019.
At the time, Hornberger was hoping to unseat then-incumbent Alan McCarthy (R). She went on to defeat McCarthy 61% to 23% in the June GOP primary, despite a post-election bid by McCarthy to overturn her victory.
According to a plea agreement, Walters acknowledged that she backdated a disclosure form that Hornberger filed last July, to make it appear that it had filed eight months prior, on November 5, 2019, when it was due.
The agreement states that “Walters and the rest of the Board of Elections staff left the office to work remotely in the afternoon” of July 7, 2020, due to the pandemic.
“After everyone was gone, and after telling her boss that she was working from home, Walters used her access card to re-enter the [Board of Elections] building at 12:04pm.”
Sixteen minutes later, “Walters called Ms. Hornberger,” the agreement states. “”Ms. Hornberger testified under oath that during the call, Walters told her that the Financial Disclosure form had been ‘backdated.’”
“Importantly, the time and date stamp machine at the Cecil County Board of Elections can be manually manipulated,” the statement adds.
Although Hornberger was named in the charging documents, she was not charged with wrongdoing.
“Transparency and fairness are essential elements to the integrity of our elections,” prosecutor Howard said in a statement.
“Our office will continue to seek to hold accountable public officials who undermine the transparency and fairness of the electoral process by abusing their position of trust.”
The sentence was handed down by Circuit Court Judge Keith A. Baynes. If Walters violates the terms of probation, the judge could impose a harsher sentence. Because she was sentenced to probation before judgment, if she successfully completes probation, the convictions will be stricken from her record.
Bennett Leckrone contributed to this report.