Deputy clerk resigns due to Hatch Act violation

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Lila Herod

Moffat County Chief Deputy Clerk Lila Herod will resign from her position with the county in order to run for county clerk and recorder in November.

Herod an­­nounced her decision Tuesday to the Daily Press in a news release.

The Hatch Act was enacted in 1939 to cover federal employees and then amended in 1940, adding state and local employees.

According to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which oversees the Hatch Act, the legislation “restricts the political activity of individuals principally employed by state or local executive agencies and who work in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by federal loans or grants.”

Herod said she is “indeed in violation of the Hatch Act in regard to the grant I am working on for the Hamilton Community Center.”

Herod, as part of her duties as deputy clerk and county elections supervisor, applied for a grant for $18,450 from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission through the Help America Vote Act to fund improvements at the Hamilton Community Center, which serves as a polling place.

The Office of Special Counsel gave her the choice to resign from her position as deputy clerk and Moffat County election supervisor or withdraw from the race by March 18.

Herod does not know when she will officially step away from her position before the March 18 deadline, or if her position will be filled by someone else.

“It is not my intent to ‘fight’ the federal government, but to ‘fight’ for the right and privilege to serve the citizens of Moffat County, and I believe my commitment and passion for service is evident in this decision,” she said in her release.

Herod is not the first local candidate to be impacted by the Hatch Act.

Last month, K.C. Hume, a lieutenant with the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office and battalion chief with Craig Fire/Rescue, removed himself from the race for Moffat County coroner because of what he thought was a Hatch Act violation.

Further Hatch Act complications arose Tuesday when John Ponikvar, Moffat County Republican Central Committee chairman, called for Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner to step down from the race.

Ponikvar said he thinks Danner is in violation of the act, as well.

“I think she has violated the trust of the employees of Moffat County, the citizens of Moffat County, the trust of the Republican Party; she has violated the Sunshine law and the Hatch Act,” he said. “I think she needs to take the high road … and withdraw her candidacy.”

Danner said she will continue to run for office.

“He is not in charge of my campaign, and I am very capable of running an ethical campaign,” she said. “I will manage my campaign appropriately and ethically as I have served.”

Danner said she is requesting information from the Office of Special Counsel regarding her candidacy and the Hatch Act.

“I am the one who has been researching the Hatch Act long before (Ponikvar) knew about it,” Danner said. “There were many people who did not know about the Hatch Act. As part of several people who had information about this … I’m doing my due diligence and researching it.”

In her release, Herod said “there should be teamwork, communication, trust and loyalty among elected officials, department heads and their employees. Obviously this is lacking in our county.

“It is unfortunate that in attempt to find conflict of interest in K.C. Hume’s campaign for coroner, the very best the leaders in our county could come up with was the Hatch Act,” she said. “Their actions have created confusion, distrust and hardship for many of us seeking public office, not just in Moffat County, but in the entire state.”

Carol Scott, Moffat County chief deputy appraiser, is running for county assessor. She is in a similar position as Herod — a county employee running for elected office.

However, Scott said she is not in violation of the Hatch Act because the assessor’s office does not receive federal grants.

Ponikvar said he is pushing for legislation to be passed in Colorado that mirrors House Resolution 2154, which was introduced into the U.S House of Representatives on April 28, 2009, and is currently in the House committee on oversight and government reform.

The bill proposes to amend the Hatch Act to read it “does not prohibit any state or local officer or employee from being a candidate for any office of any local unit of general purpose government which has a population of less than 100,000.”

“(The Hatch Act) is archaic,” Ponikvar said. “It’s hurting our counties, and I think there should be something totally bipartisan because it’s hurting officials from every party in the state of Colorado.”

State Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, said he and State Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, made a request to the state Monday about the possibility of drafting similar legislation to apply on a state level in Colorado.

“This is absurd,” Tipton said. “I understand the federal end of it, but when we are reaching down into our local communities, where we have so few people, it gets to the point of unreasonable.”

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