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

QUESTION

Whether a county administrator of elections can be dismissed solely on the basis of party

affiliation.

OPINION

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

 

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04-15-09