Elections board has lost trust

Published 11:00 pm Saturday, January 17, 2009

How can we expect Lawrence County’s voters to have faith in the elections process when the board that oversees that vital function seems to be unable to avoid controversy and efficiently manage the department?

The answer? We can’t.

Voters need to have some reassurance that all is being done to correct the problems that have been rampant in the Lawrence County Board of Elections.

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The issues have been ongoing but all point toward a lack of leadership.

First, the board — with attorney Dick Meyers serving at the time — fired longtime director Mary Wipert without ever giving an explanation to the taxpayers and voters.

Later before drastically exceeding its budget and having to threaten a lawsuit against the county to give more money at the 11th hour, the board allowed Wipert to essentially stay on the county payroll for months.

The icing on the cake came last week when the State Auditor’s office issued a management memo that said the minutes from the meeting were so incomplete it was impossible to tell if the board actually intended to fire Wipert, therefore making the auditors unable to rule on who should be responsible for repaying those funds.

“When we questioned the board members and the county prosecutor as to the board’s intent on Ms. Wipert’s contract at the Feb. 28, 2007, meeting, there was no agreement as to whether the board intended to terminate Ms. Wipert or intended to allow to her to continue to receive pay,” the letter stated.

Unfortunately, because the problems begin at the top and appear to be tied to lack of oversight and supervision, the only way for voters’ trust to be reassured is to wipe the slate clean and start with new leadership.

All three longtime members of the board — Robert Griffith, Karen Matney Simmons, Craig Allen — should prove they care about Lawrence County and step down. Immediately.

While Carl Lilly has only been on the board a short time and may not share in as much of the blame, he too should resign in order to allow new leadership, and hopefully new ideas, to take over.

Citizens deserve to know their votes will count and that will only start when the board overseeing elections earns our trust.