In PA … Cortes to Step Down as Secretary of Commonwealth

(GantDaily Graphic)

HARRISBURG – Gov. Edward G. Rendell announced that Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortés will resign June 11 to become the executive vice president of Everyone Counts, a company specializing in military and overseas voting technology. He will be responsible for strategic business development, including the Latin American and Caribbean marketplace.

The governor noted that Cortés is the first confirmed Latino cabinet member and the longest-serving Secretary of the Commonwealth in Pennsylvania history. He also was the first Pennsylvania Secretary of State to be President of the National Association of Secretaries of State, a role he held from July 2008 to July 2009.

“Secretary Cortés is a true public servant success story, rising from his initial commonwealth position as a Department of Public Welfare caseworker in 1993 to lead the Department of State as secretary in 2003,” Rendell said.  “His diligence, attention to detail, strong work ethic and leadership transformed the Department of State.

“Secretary Cortés leveraged technology to improve operations and services in every facet at the Department of State. In the area of elections, Cortés and his team successfully administered 15 Primary and General elections. He led the implementation of the federal Help America Vote Act, which has made the electoral process more secure, efficient and accessible to voters. During his tenure, the state revolutionized voting, moving from paper and lever machines to electronic voting systems, and voter registration information that is now housed in a centralized system designed to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the commonwealth’s voter registration records maintained by Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.”

The department also deployed the nation’s first statewide electronic notarization program and reduced the time needed to approve a notary application from eight weeks to one day. Similarly, technology improved service to the business community, as the department decreased the processing time of Uniform Commercial Code filings and other business documents from 36 and 27 days, respectively, to only one day each.

“Secretary Cortés builds bridges and goodwill with his strong interpersonal skills, and he did an outstanding job serving as Capital Region Chairman for the 2006 SECA Campaign,” Rendell said. “Under his leadership, the commonwealth met and surpassed its goal for the first time since 2001. The more than $4 million raised represented the fourth highest total in the campaign’s 29-year history.”

At the Department of State, Cortés leads a 500-employee agency that oversees a diverse collection of administrative and regulatory bureaus that directly affect Pennsylvania residents. The department preserves the integrity of Pennsylvania’s electoral process; commissions notaries public; provides the initial infrastructure for establishing businesses through corporate filings; licenses 800,000 active professionals; protects the commonwealth from fraudulent charities;  and sanctions professional boxing, wrestling and mixed martial arts events held in Pennsylvania.

“The diverse work of the Department of State affects every person in Pennsylvania, and Secretary Cortés and his staff did an excellent job protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public,” Rendell said.

In the area of professional licensure, the department created a “triage” charging unit, which protects the public by reducing the review and disposition of non-Mcare disciplinary cases to an all-time low. Under his tenure, Cortés also assisted with the creation of two new boards regulating massage therapists and crane operators. In addition, the department strengthened consumer protection through Act 25 of 2009, which added a provision raising the maximum fine the board imposes for violations of the licensing laws or regulations from $1,000 to $10,000, as well as authorized the licensing boards to impose the costs of investigation. 

In the realm of charities, the Bureau of Charitable Organizations is now handling a record of nearly 12,000 non-profit and charitable registrations, compared to 7,600 in 2003.
The State Athletic Commission expanded its regulatory scope in early 2009 to sanction mixed martial arts. Within a few months, the Ultimate Fight Championships 101 event at the Wachovia Center became the highest-grossing commission event in commonwealth history, with more than $3.5 million in gate revenue.

The governor is expected to nominate a successor in the near future.

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