‘Democratic right’ | SteamboatToday.com

‘Democratic right’

2 Craig residents headed to testify for Hatch Act resolution

Brian Smith

K.C. Hume

Lila Herod and K.C. Hume, two residents recently affected by the Hatch Act, are headed to the state Capitol to voice their opinions about a federal law they contend is out of date.

"It is past time for the government at the federal and state level to look at that legislation and see if it needs to be brought into line with the way the world is today," Hume said.

Herod and Hume will be testifying Tuesday at a Colorado House committee on state, veterans and military affairs as part of a proposed House joint resolution aimed at limiting the Hatch Act's scope.

State Rep. Randy Baum-

gardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, and Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, are sponsoring the bill.

Baumgardner and Tipton began investigating a solution to problems caused by the Hatch Act in Craig, Steam-

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boat Springs and other communities after hearing concerns from residents.

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

local employees.

It restricts the political activity of people 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.

The joint resolution drafted by Baumgardner and Tipton was introduced to the House on April 15.

It urges Congress to amend the Hatch Act to allow the Office of Special Counsel, which handles Hatch Act issues, to "grant limited exceptions" for candidates in rural areas.

It also encourages the OSC to give leeway to candidates running for partisan elected office in rural areas who have come into contact with federal grants as "rural areas of Colorado currently face a shortage of candidates qualified for public office."

The resolution must pass the House and the Senate before it can be sent to Congress.

Hume, a Moffat County Sheriff's Office investigator, dropped out of the race for county coroner Feb. 27 because of a possible Hatch Act violation.

Herod resigned from her job as the county's chief deputy clerk and elections supervisor April 2 after the Office of Special Counsel determined she was in violation of the Hatch Act.

The OSC determined Herod, a candidate for county clerk and recorder, violated the act by receiving a federal grant to fund improvements at the Hamilton community center. She resigned from her job so she could remain eligible to run for clerk and recorder.

Hume said he was happy to attend the hearing and testify in favor of the resolution because it is his democratic right.

"That is part of what our country was built upon … each individual's right to free speech and to have a part in the government," he said.

Herod said she was excited to see that "our state representatives have expressed interest and concern over this issue."

She said that despite "not being completely against" the Hatch Act, that she would "hate to see any other candidate blindsided by this like I was."

"I hope that the legislators will understand that for particularly small communities, (the Hatch Act) has created hardships," Herod said.

Hume echoed Herod's thoughts, adding that the act should be updated.

"There are parts of the legislation that are relevant in its original intent, but its original intent in 1939 may not apply specifically today in 2010," he said.

John Ponikvar, Moffat Coun-

ty Republican Central Commit-

tee Chairman, will join Hume and Herod at the state Capitol.

Ponikvar said he will not attend as the county Republican chairman, but as an advocate for small communities.

"Here people are out trying to do good for their community and trying to help and because there is so much federal funding out there … all of a sudden (the Hatch Act) prohibits them from running for office," Ponikvar said.

"Those people that are really involved in these things are really the shakers and the movers … and are the people we would really like in office."

White said it is time for Congress to investigate the implications of the Hatch Act on local communities.

"It is reaching clear down into city and county government," White said. "I think that it was really intended for federal issues, and I think it has gone too far."

White said he is pleased to see residents testifying because "every citizen has a right and an opportunity to testify in favor or against (a measure).

"That is the best part of the process I think," he said.

Brian Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or briansmith@craigdailypress.com.

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