Central City Clerk, election vindicated

thrown outLynn Hirshman, Central City. On October 6, Robert Fejeran and Brad Snedeker filed a lawsuit challenging some of the official election practices of the City of Central, and of the actions of the City Clerk in particular.

No action was taken, and the election went forward as planned and was accepted with no comment by the Office of the Secretary of State. Fejeran, who was running for mayor, lost the election when incumbent Ron Engels was re-elected.

On November 7, the petitioners filed their Amended Verified Petition asserting additional deficiencies in Clerk Bechtel’s handling of various nominating petitions for municipal office in Central City. Like the Original Petition, the Amended Petition was signed, but not verified.

Central City filed a Motion to Dismiss on November 26. In the motion, several reasons were given by the City, including the fact that both petitions (an amended petition was filed a month after the first one, asserting additional deficiencies in Clerk Reba Bechtel’s handling of various nominating petitions for municipal office in Central City) had never been verified.

The motion also stated that “Mandamus [the original form of the petition] is not appropriate unless all alternative forms of relief have been exhausted. When administrative remedies are provided by statute or ordinance, the procedure outlined in the statute must be followed if the contested matter is within the jurisdiction of the administrative authority.” There had been, the Motion continues, “administrative remedies” available.

The petitioners, Snedeker and Fejeran, attempted to get a conference with the judge in a motion filed on December 3. Judge Philip J. McNulty of the District Court denied that request, based on faulty procedure on the part of the two.

On December 19, Judge McNulty granted the Motion to Dismiss: “Petitioners’ Original Petition and Amended Petition are dismissed with prejudice.” This means that the suit cannot be filed again.

Further, “The Court hereby further grants Respondent Reba Bechtel her reasonable attorney fees and costs,” recognizing that Bechtel had suffered financial distress as a result of the suit. No comment has been made of the attack on Bechtel’s character in the original petition.

Nor was she the only person negatively affected. The petition also attacked long-time Central City resident and election judge Barbara Thielemann, as having not “been present at the time of the notarization but … added later,” a claim Thielemann denies, but which led her to resign as an election judge in November in order not to appear to prejudice the election.

The Mountain-Ear will be following this story as it continues to unfold.