The devil is in the details
Does issue with paperwork threaten Tim Fesko’s candidacy in District 4?
In national politics, the talk is of red and blue states.
Locally, the color of choice these days is gray.
While it appears there may have been an error made in the nomination papers submitted by District 4 candidate for Mono County Supervisor Tim Fesko, those papers were accepted by Mono County Elections Official Lynda Roberts.
Mono County Counsel Marshall Rudolph maintains there is enough of a “gray area” in interpreting State Election Code to uphold Fesko’s papers … and candidacy.
An appeal, however, could throw it all into chaos.
Here is what happened.
Candidates, when they decide to run for office, have the option of collecting signatures on an “in-lieu fee” petition. If a candidate collects enough signatures, he or she doesn’t have to pay a filing fee to run for office. Any signatures a candidate collects, however, reduces the fee by a proportionate number.
These in-lieu petitions are due 15 days prior to the close of the nomination period.
If a candidate chooses not to submit an in-lieu fee petition, he or she can simply submit nomination papers which require a minimum of 20 signatures and pay the filing fee, which, according to State Election Code 8106a.5, is equivalent to 1% of the annual salary of the office.
Both Bob Peters and Jan Huggans submitted in-lieu fee petitions. Tim Fesko did not.
Fesko had, in fact, collected some signatures on an in-lieu fee petition, however, he had never formally submitted it.
Here’s where it gets tricky.
Fesko walks into the office of County Clerk/Elections Official Lynda Roberts on February 28 to submit his nomination papers and pay his filing fee. Fesko asks whether or not the 21 signatures he collected on his in-lieu filing fee petition can count towards the signatures required for the nomination papers. He is told that is okay.
A quick glance at State Election Code 8061 would indicate Roberts’ office gave Fesko bad information.
8061 reads, “If a candidate submits an in-lieu-filing-fee petition pursuant to Section 8106, any or all signatures appearing on the petition … shall be counted towards the number of voters required to sign a nomination paper.”
However, Fesko never formally submitted an in-lieu-filing-fee petition. So how can you apply signatures from a document which technically doesn’t exist? The key word in that above Code section is the first: “If.”
However, County Counsel Rudolph told The Sheet Thursday that his office contacted several agencies and he didn’t think it was so cut-and-dried.
He said the signature requirements [in terms of information required] is identical, and that one could argue that emphasis should be placed more on the validity of the signatures than on whatever piece of paper they happen to appear on.
“I can easily make the argument for both sides of this thing,” he said.
As for Roberts, she considers the matter closed and Fesko’s papers in order.
“I followed the rules as outlined by the elections office. Am I all set? They said yes,” said Fesko Wednesday.
“As far as I am concerned and the County’s concerned, I am a qualified candidate,” he continued. “If you read the statute, you will clearly understand that.”
Fellow candidates Peters and Huggans said they were informed by the County of the situation.
Sheet: Should he [Fesko] be allowed to remain in the race?
Peters: I can’t answer that … I was informed by the County that there was a gray area in the election code.
Sheet: Did you look at the code?
Sheet: Do you think it’s gray?
Peters: I really don’t think I should answer that question.
Huggans said she was informed by the County that there was a gray area in the election law, but she had not had time to look at the relevant code section.
Tim Fesko believes that the whole dust-up is merely sideline to the issues.” It’s important to get the county back in good fiscal shap,” he said, “and make government accountable to the people.”
If not accountable to the rules it writes for itself.