Reported Burst Pipe in Atlanta Ballot-Count Area Was Overflowing Urinal: Investigator

December 7, 2020 Updated: December 7, 2020

The Election Day incident in Atlanta’s State Farm Arena that was first reported as a burst pipe turned out to be an overflowing urinal, a state investigator said Dec. 6.

Officials in Fulton County said late Nov. 3 that a pipe had burst in the arena around 6:07 a.m., causing a delay of several hours in counting absentee ballots. They also referred to the incident as “a water leak.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office opened an investigation into the incident.

Frances Watson, the chief investigator for the office, said in a Dec. 6 court filing that the investigation revealed the water leak “was actually a urinal that had overflowed.”

The overflowing “did not affect the counting of votes by Fulton County later that evening,” she wrote.

Gabriel Sterling, voting implementation systems manager for Raffensperger’s office, told reporters last month that what happened “wasn’t a water main break.”

“What it was was, during the off-season and during the pandemic, they shut off the toilets. They were turned off and there was a leak that got around one of the edges of the shut off valves. And over time, over time, over time, it is just like we said, we got hit with a hurricane,” he said.

Jessica Corbitt, a county spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement to The Epoch Times in November that staff members at State Farm Arena notified Fulton County Registration & Elections “of a water leak affecting the room where absentee ballots were being tabulated.”

“The State Farm Arena team acted swiftly to remediate the issue. Within 2 hours, repairs were complete,” she said. “No ballots were damaged, nor was any equipment affected. There was a brief delay in tabulating absentee ballots while the repairs were being conducted. Ballots were not moved outside of the room during this incident (it occurred on the other side of the room from the area where ballots were located.)”

Asked about the results of the investigation on Dec. 7, Corbitt told The Epoch Times via email: “It was the water from the urinal that caused the issue. So our statement stands.”

Asked whether the water leak did, in fact, stem from a burst pipe, she declined to answer directly and referred to her previous statement.

Dwight Brower, Fulton County’s election chief, told the county’s Board of Commissioners on election night that “there was a pipe that burst in the room where we actually had ballots.”

“Thank goodness that none of those ballots were damaged,” he added.

state farm arena
Filing boxes sit off to the side at an absentee ballot processing room at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Ga., on Nov. 2, 2020. (Megan Varner/Getty Images)

Ralph Jones, another county official, told the board, “we had a pipe that was busted.”

“We were down for four hours,” from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., Jones said.

Robb Pitts, the chairman of Fulton County Board of Commissioners, was asked about the incident by lawmakers during a Georgia Senate Government Oversight Committee hearing on Dec. 3.

“That thing has taken the life of his own. There was a water, actually, there was a leak. The floor above where we were counting ballots at State Farm Arena, according to Steve Koonin, CEO of Atlanta Hawks,” he said.

“And it was repaired within two hours. No ballots were damaged. No equipment was damaged. End of story. So how this has gotten to be what it is, I have no idea.”

The Hawks didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for details about how Koonin learned of the leak, who was responsible for repairs, and whether he was questioned as part of the investigation.

Pitts said he wasn’t there at the time so he couldn’t answer when asked if the room had been secured when people were asked to leave.

Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez, Fulton County’s director of external affairs, also said she wasn’t in the arena at the time, but had spoken to staff members who were.

“My understanding is that the workers who were responsible for those ballots never left the room. They were in the room the entire time. They had to stop working for a period of about two hours and that was the reason it was brought up in the first place, is there was a slight delay of a couple of hours where they couldn’t access the entire room, but they did not leave. And the ballots remained in the custody of the sworn workers,” she said.

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