Wilcox commissioners appoint Sutton to county elections board

Published 4:22 pm Friday, May 15, 2020

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By Lucas C. Allison

Wilcox County Correspondent

The Wilcox Board of Commissioners held a special called meeting on Wednesday, May 13 to appoint two members and a chairman to the Wilcox County Board of Elections.  Along with commissioners, County Attorney Toni Sawyer was present.

Chairman Keene called the meeting to order and asked for nominations to the Board of Elections.  Commissioner Clay Reid made a motion to appoint Mike Sutton of Rochelle; seconded by Commissioner Mel Powell, the motion carried unanimously.

Commissioner Jowan Johnson then asked Attorney Sawyer the legality of appointing his wife Courtney Johnson to the Board.  Mrs. Sawyer stated there was no legal statute preventing the appointment of his wife to the board, however she always would advise on the abundance of caution when doing so as to avoid any conflicts.  She further stated Mr. Johnson would have to abstain from the vote.  Commissioner Reid stated he did not feel it would be ethical to make the appointment not only in this case but any such type of appointment. Commissioner Powell agreed.

Mrs. Sawyer explained that when and if Mr. Johnson were to run for re-election, if appointed Mrs. Johnson would be prohibited from campaigning on his behalf or any candidate’s behalf, again Mrs. Sawyer stated she reverts to being overly cautious in making such appointments.

Chairman Keene asked for a motion to appoint Courtney Johnson to the Board of Elections. After receiving no such nomination, Chairman Keene then made the motion himself, and the vote was tied with Commissioners Reid and Powell voting nay and Chairman Keene and Commissioner Hall voting yay with Commissioner Johnson abstaining. Thus, the motion failed.

Chairman Keene then requested and received no further nominations to the Board of Elections, leaving one vacancy unfilled.

The second item of business was the appointment of Chairman of the Board of Elections.  Commissioner Reid made a motion seconded by Mr. Powell to appoint Mike Sutton as Chairman, which was approved.

Chairman Keene was advised by Attorney Sawyer the Commission needs to notify Probate Judge Shawn Rhodes of the appointment so as to arrange the swearing-in of Mr. Mike Sutton as soon as possible; she also reminded commissioners Mr. Sutton would need to receive his training and certification within 12 months of his appointment.  Chairman Keene asked commissioners to continue to search their districts for someone willing to fill the remaining vacancy on the Board of Elections and if anyone wished to serve to please contact commissioners.

Chairman Keene then advised commissioners that after the joint meeting between commissioners and the Board of Elections on Tuesday, May 12, that the three Elections Board members held a meeting in which they had voted to pay elections personnel overtime for Saturday voting and end their performing of logistics and accuracy testing following the June 9th election, and for the county to acquire someone else to perform this duty thereafter.

There was much discussion on the legality of the Board of Elections meeting and their ability to approve overtime for themselves.  County Attorney Sawyer pointed to the legislation which formed the Board of Elections when it was removed from the duties of the Probate Judge, noting that the law states that “the Board of Commissioners shall set all rates of pay and make decisions on whether to pay overtime or compensatory time.”

Chairman Keene stated that he had checked with seven surrounding counties and found that the Elections Supervisor performs Logistics and Accuracy testing as part of their assigned duties. There were no actions taken on the information supplied by Chairman Keene at this meeting.

There being no further business the meeting was adjourned.  The Commissioners meet the 1st Tuesday of each month in the commissioner’s office in the courthouse.