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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hatched Candidate Caught In The Act

In many regards, where would I be without the Janesville Gazette. Right?

Today's Gazette ran a article about a candidate challenging the incumbent for the county coroner's office that didn't smell quite right. The story that is. But before I begin here, it should be noted that the Janesville Gazette has been actively publishing against the Democratic incumbent Jenifer Keach in both articles and editorials. They are bold about it and hey, it's their newspaper and everyone is entitled to their opinion, including them.

So, today's story was about the challenger, Terry Holder, getting caught somehow running for public office while also remaining employed with the U.S. government, a direct violation under the Hatch Act. Just to refresh, the Hatch Act is a United States federal law whose main provision is to prohibit federal, state and local government employees from running for partisan public office.

As it turns out, when the challenger filed her papers (on or before July 13) to run for political office, she was still employed at the William S. Middleton Memorial VA Hospital in Madison. Ooops. The newspaper reported that she eventually resigned from her job at the VA, but that was a month later on August 12th.

To be fair, it's not a malicious crime and is something that a candidate could understandably overlook through all the excitement when initiating a run for public office. Still, it's not like somebody was being accused of ethical wrongdoing or violating laws that don't exist. There is no gray area, it is a clear and sturdy federal law.

The Gazette begins their article...
JG Excerpt:
When Terry Holder filed as a candidate for Rock County coroner, she had no idea she was violating federal law.
She had no idea. Okay. So the newspaper proceeds to lay out a series of events beginning with a complaint filed at the Rock County Clerks' Office. Simple enough for a newspaper. Just lay it all out, timeline and everything, right? But nothing is simple enough when you're trying to work out an advantage for someone - things become a little distorted.
JG Excerpt:
The district attorneys office confirmed that Holder was violating the Hatch Act, and Holder called the US Office of Special Counsel, which enforces the law.
Whoa! There's quite a gap there going from the DA confirming the violation (to the Gazette?) - to Holder calling the OSC. So, how and when exactly did Holder find out she was in violation of the law since she was unaware of it? Remember the article begins, "...she had no idea she was violating the federal law."

Given the newspaper's history and circumstances, the anti-incumbent-coroner-Gazette did everything they could to defend Holder in this news article and make her appear innocent through ignorance, yet turned it around as if she was smart enough on her own to contact the U.S. Office of Special Counsel about a law she had no idea she was in violation of.

That might not be totally accurate either because we just don't know. My main point here is less about the candidate, and more about the publishing tactics of the Gazette. Everyone deserves a fair shake. But questions abound. Is there a grace period for being in violation of the Hatch Act? Was her candidate petition valid on July 13th? I'm not smart enough to answer those questions.

But, who is the Gazette covering for? Did the newspaper tip her off about the complaint? Did someone at the Rock County clerks office or the DA tip her off (to call the OSC)? OR did the county or the OSC issue a formal letter of charges or the complaint against Holder? If so, why is that aspect left unreported in the Gazette? Would she be in violation if no one issued a complaint? Should anyone care anything about this? I think it is important because voters need to know the whole story if one is to be told at all.

Is the Gazette privy to information that they believe their readers can't handle or shouldn't know? Can we get an open records request on a newspaper?

Where would I be without the Gazette?


Anonymous said...

Terry Holder was never a credible candidate to begin with. Her supporters are so desperate to have someone run against Jenifer Keach that they are literally scraping the bottom of the barrel. The rules never seem to apply to liars and cheats.

Anonymous said...

Far more restraint here than the Gazette deserved considering they would have crucified Keach if she had violated federal law. When partisan bloggers can be more fair and balanced than msm news, the world is truly upside-down. Oh, and perfect title!

Richard L. Costerisan said...

I can give you all the answers to the correct sequence and they are not pretty. But, I wouldn't want Scott Angus to have to suffer the embarrassment of calling me a liar again. Let's just say the best thing Holder can do is withdraw from the race. She won't be able to take office even if she were lucky enough to win! To those of you who support the woman from Milton, give it up, your horse just died. Now, that is what the Gazette needs to print. Do they have the guts to tell the public they haven't been doing their job keeping the public informed? Or that they are covering up for their political agenda instead of honoring their obligation to protect our First Amendment Rights? It is this kind of journalism that has brought the integrity of the Gazette to near zero. We might as well pronounce them dead while we're at it.

Anonymous said...

The issue of Holder being "Hatched" was first brought up on July 26th. It is likely she learned about it from there.

Anonymous said...

(continued) It was raised on the Janesville Gazette blog on July 26th.

Anonymous said...

Wouln't it be nice if we could get an open reords request on the newspaper? But no, they can print whatever they want and never have to reveal their "Source" or defend the source's credibility. And radio silence if it turns out later they were wrong! I wonder how many lives and careers they have willfully destroyed over the years to sell papers. Working with the public every day, I can't tell you how many of them say "oh I don't even read the gazette, they are so biased" or "I only read the obituarys" or "clip the coupons." They have advertising because they are the only game in town. Thank God for the evening news and the internet. I can still find out what's going on in the world outside the ivory towers of Janesville.

Anonymous said...

Another story has comments shut down because of Holder supporters slinging flat out defamation. I mean it got bad.

Anonymous said...

Holder has no experience in a coroner's office
Holder has no college degree
Holder has no ties to our communities
Holder has no plan
Holder is not a good choice for Rock County

Lou Kaye said...

Congratulations to the commenter on the Gazette blog for raising the "Hatch Act" issue on July 26th. But a blog comment and "she likely learned about it from there" doesn't cut it for proper notice of a federal violation.

The federal government does appear satisfied from their end about employment with Holder's resignation on August 12th. But coming into compliance with the Hatch Act on August 12th means her ballot petition was out of compliance and invalid for nearly a month. Does she deserve special treatment?

Again, the Gazette said a complaint was filed with the county DA - what is their response? Will they hold a hearing?

Anonymous said...

"But coming into compliance with the Hatch Act on August 12th means her ballot petition was out of compliance and invalid for nearly a month."

How so? Does the Hatch Act really dictate ballot compliance for a local election, or only that a public employee may not keep their job if they run for a partison position? The Remedies for violating the Hatch Act appear to be either termination of employment by the government, or voluntary withdrawl from a campaign by the employee. The Hatch Act is purely administrative in nature, and has nothing to do with election eligibility from the viewpoint of Rock County.

Lou Kaye said...

You are right about the Hatch Act dealing primarily with administrative enforcement against the employee to protect funding. The Feds could care less about any local election ramifications. However, resigning from the job does not suddenly make good for the time spent violating the prohibitions up to discovery. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from circulating nomination petitions for partisan office. It's federal administrative law but it's still law. The basis of my point stems from the likely outcome if Holder's ballot petition was challenged July 13th on Hatch Act prohibitions, her petition would have likely been thrown out. From the election side of the Hatch Act, there is plenty of overlay for dispute in local jurisdictions. This web page discusses a few.

Anonymous said...

The Hatch Act itself does not make someone ineligible for office, but only ineligible to keep their job (hence, it is an administrative law). None of those articles on the site you linked to mentions that candidates are ineligable from being on the ballot. Over and over, the candidates options are either to quit their jobs, or quit the race.

Local or State election law would have to specifically cite violation of the Hatch Act (or similar behavior) as a reason for ineligibility. The question is, what does Wisconsin election law say regarding the Hatch Act (or similar)? The County Clerk should know. Will the Gazette follow up?

Lou Kaye said...

I agree, enforcement of the Hatch Act only deals with employee prohibitions, not elective eligibility. While Holder was a federal employee covered under the Hatch Act, she violated its' primary provisions for an extended length of time. The Gazette article contained statements that a complaint was filed at the county courthouse and the DA got involved and confirmed she was in violation of the Hatch Act. So, what does that mean? I don't know. That's why I ask, "when's the hearing?" It needs closure.

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