County elections officials have uncovered the error behind 20 cities recently receiving inflated invoices for the past general election: A "discrepancy" in its new billing model.

County elections officials have uncovered the error behind 20 cities recently receiving inflated invoices for the past general election: A "discrepancy" in its new billing model.

The San Bernardino County Elections Office finished its investigation this week into candidate statement bills it sent out in late June after "several" cities had inquired about the invoices, spokeswoman Melissa Eickman told the Daily Press.

In letters sent Wednesday to the 20 of 24 county cities which were affected — meaning they had council candidates file statements printed in the Voter Information Guide last year — the Elections Office acknowledged the error and enclosed revised invoices.

"Consequently, the invoices have now been adjusted," wrote Michael Scarpello, the Registrar of Voters, "to more accurately account for the printing costs of candidate statements for city candidates."

As an example of the dramatic post-audit cost shift, the city of Victorville had received notice late last month that its council candidates owed $2,405, far more than the $1,394 estimated about a year prior and already paid. The revised invoice after the Elections Office review, however, reflected an actual cost of just $1,316.

So instead of ponying up an extra $1,000, candidates for Victorville city council were owed a refund of $78.

The Elections Office said it will issue refunds for the difference if any candidates already paid the misquoted cost.

Candidates for office can voluntarily file a statement in the voter's guide and they must pay the estimated cost upfront. They also agree, then, to pay the difference, if any, between the estimate and actual cost and to do so within 30 days of billing notification.

Carolee Bates, the city clerk for Victorville, had advised candidates in letters last week that the unexpected difference between estimated and actual costs was unprecedented and the first time the actual bill had been higher than estimated since 1992, when Victorville consolidated elections with the county.

"Candidates have always received a refund of a portion of their deposit because the estimated cost was on the high end," she wrote. "This is also the first time a final billing for the election costs have been received almost a year after the nomination period began."

She added that concerns were shared by other clerks in the High Desert.

Ultimately, the Elections Office apologized for any inconvenience the snafu might have caused.

"We are always striving to improve our processes in order to be more effective and efficient," Scarpello wrote in his letter to the cities. "However, with change, we run the risk of encountering minor difficulties such as this billing issue. Please know that we value our partnership with our cities and we are always striving to provide better customer service."

Shea Johnson can be reached at 760-955-5368 or SJohnson@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DP_Shea.