Attorney General Opinion may help
County Administrator of Elections
Dana Zehner, Administrator of Elections
Will she stay or will she go?
By: Pat Hunter
April 15, 2009
The Tennessee Attorney General recently opined whether a county administrator of elections can be dismissed solely on the basis of party affiliation. The AG Opinion was sought by State Representative Kent Coleman, Murfeesboro Democrat. Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper opined, “We think that a court could find that the dismissal of a county administrator of elections solely upon the basis of political party affiliation constitutes a violation of that individual’s First and 14th Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.”
County Election commissions have the authority to appoint administrators and now with a three Republican majority will the Loudon County Election Commission replace the current Democratic Election Administrator in favor of a Republican appointee?
The Loudon County Budget Committee recently approved recommending a reduction in pay by $18,000 for a new non-certified election administrator in preparation for the change. The pay would be increased to the regular level of pay once the person receives certification. Did the Budget Committee jump the gun?
Will she stay or will she go? Whether you agree with her or not or whether you like her or not, Dana Zehner has done a good job as elections administrator. If she didn’t know something she went and researched the issue and no complaints have surfaced about her job performance at any public meetings.
Will this be a fairness issue or just politics as usual, only time will tell? The Election Commission is scheduled to meet next Tuesday.
Tennessee Attorney General Opinion No. 09-52, April 8, 2009
Dismissal of County Administrator of Elections Based On Party Affiliation
Whether a county administrator of elections can be dismissed solely on the basis of party
In light of the all the relevant authority, a court could find that the dismissal of a county
administrator of elections solely on the basis of political party affiliation constitutes a violation
of that individual’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.
If, however, a county election commission can demonstrate that it has delegated broad
discretionary policymaking authority regarding budgetary matters and/or the implementation of
its goals and programs to the administrator of elections, then under those circumstances a court
could find that political affiliation is an appropriate requirement for the effective performance of
that particular administrator’s position.Click to read the entire Tennessee Attorney General Opinion No. 09-52, April 8, 2009 PDF