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Auditor candidate protests actions of elections board

The signs read “stand up,” “courthouse for sale,” and “Ater 4 auditor.”

In spite of the frigid cold, Jon Ater, Independent candidate for Lawrence County Auditor, and a friend, Michael Bone, of Proctorville, held the signs for people at the intersection of Fifth Street and Park Avenue to see. Some motorists honked as they drove past.

“We get a lot of that,” Ater said, acknowledging the horn blasts.

What prompted the protest Thursday afternoon? Ater is angry about the way in which the Lawrence County Republican Central Committee chose to select a new board of elections member last month. The 80-plus GOP body used a secret ballot to elect Freddie Hayes Jr. to replace retiring board member Bob Griffith.

Ater’s point is this: the secret ballot does not allow for open government.

“I am for 100 percent transparency in government,” Ater said. He said he asked for the minutes of the GOP meeting in which Hayes was elected and Republican officials refused his request.

Ater used to be a Republican. He resigned a few years ago after a disagreement with GOP Chairman Ray T. Dutey.

Ater is now the chairman of the Independent Non Party Movement, a political organization he said was not recognized by the State of Ohio. Ater said in spite of this, he is recruiting new members.

“We’re against corruption, government corruption in particular,” Ater said. “We’re for transparency and accountability and no new taxes.”

Ater said Lawrence County Democrats conduct their party choice publicly, why shouldn’t the Republicans do the same?

But when Ater took his protest to the board of elections meeting later Thursday, no one was honking in approval. He asked Hayes, who attended the board of elections meeting, to resign his seat on the board because of the secret ballot that put him on the board.

Hayes did not do so and declined to comment on Ater’s protest.

The four members of the elections board did not act on his request that they give an official opinion on the use of the secret ballot.

Board chairperson Karen Matney Simmons pointed out that the board of elections does not oversee the process in which the county’s two political parties choose their board of elections members. Each party has two seats on the elections board.

Griffith agreed.

“This is not the place to air that,” Griffith said. “We’ve got nothing to do with that.”

“You need to address that to the Republican party,” Simmons said. “We can’t make the Democratic party or the Republican party do whatever.”

Griffith told Ater he owed Hayes an apology.

“He got the office fair and square,” Griffith said.

Hayes was sworn in last week and will officially take his seat at the organizational meeting March 5.