The conflict between the Election
Board and the commissioner/candidates resulted in a June 17 memo
to Election Board Chairman Craig Adams from County Solicitor
Richard W. Winkler. In his memo, Attorney Winkler flatly refused
to follow the Election Board's June 13th directive for an injunction
to be filed to prevent County Commissioners from involvement
in election-related business.
In the memo Winkler states,
"It is obvious, but as County Solicitor, I also represent
the County Commissioners."
After additional attempts to
resolve the problems, Election Board Chair Adams filed the petition
in Venango County Court in hopes of obtaining an unconflicted
solicitor so that the forensic exam and other election board
matters can proceed.
Today, Judge Robert L. Boyer
issued an Order of Court setting a hearing on the matter for
next Tuesday, July 5, at 10 A.M. (UPDATE July 1: Hearing has
been rescheduled for Tuesday, July 12, at 10 A.M.)
news media... Shedding Light on the Issues or Adding Confusion?
On June 14 the area's local
newspaper The Derrick published an article discussing
the Election Board's intention to obtain injunctive relief to
"stop the County Commissioners from engaging in election-related
duties." The same article went on to allege that the Election
Board violated the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law because it advertised
public meetings in news articles rather than by paying The
Derrick (the county's local paper of general circulation)
for an ad.
Melissa Melewsky, a registered
lobbyist for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, was quoted
as saying that "the board failed to meet Sunshine Law requirements
because it didn't place paid legal notices for its meetings in
a local newspaper."
Earlier, The Derrick
filed Right-To-Know requests demanding "all communications
from election board members to election board staff, county administration,
and county commissioners from Feb. 15, 2011 to present in any
form, electronic, written or otherwise."
Although Section 902(a)(4)
of Pennsylvania's Right-To-Know
Law requires an open records officer to determine if "a
legal review is necessary to determine whether the record is
a record subject to access under this act," and Section
708 exempts many items from public access such as personal
information, personnel matters, predecisional deliberations of
an agency, etc., according to the Petiton
for Substition of Solicitor filed by the Election Board,
within one day of The Derrick's first request approximately
1300 Election Board emails were released to The Derrick's
reporter Shelia Boughner by Chief Clerk Denise Jones. Jones
serves as the Venango County open records officer.
On June 23 The Derrick
published four articles critical of the Election Board and its
emails, revealing the content of many of them including the names
of several private citizens who had contacted the Election Board.
One of the articles in the series again quoted newspaper association
lobbyist Melissa Melewsky and further alleged violation of Pennsylvania's
Sunshine Law, based on the paper's conclusion from the emails
that Election Board meetings were somehow "scripted."
VENANGO COUNTY STORIES HERE