Danner not in violation of Hatch Act
Commissioner: Decision should put issue to rest
March 18, 2010
Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner has received a response from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel clearing questions surrounding her candidacy for another term as District 2 commissioner.
"This response confirms that my actions of giving information to our employees was not in violation of the Hatch Act," Danner said. "It was not influencing their campaign."
Danner sent a letter Friday asking for the OSC's opinion on her candidacy, after questions and comments from the community surfaced about possible violations of the Hatch Act.
She was criticized by John Ponikvar, Moffat County Republican Central Committee chairman, for her role in the surfacing of the Hatch Act.
The Hatch Act is a federal law, which restricts certain activities of candidates running for office.
Danner consulted the OCS about three issues, the first of which being whether she influenced an election by providing Hatch Act information to candidates she thought might be affected.
In an e-mail to Danner, attorney J.M. Martell, of the OSC's Hatch Act Unit wrote, "we can offer no opinion along these lines."
Martell said the OSC would only offer such an opinion if an individual made a direct complaint to their office about a Hatch Act violation.
Later, Martell told Danner in a phone conversation that "giving information is not influencing" a campaign, Danner said.
"I want to put this issue to rest," Danner said. "I was willing to make sure that it was appropriate. I didn't feel it was (inappropriate,) but others did, so I was willing to do the work to look for it."
Danner also said she will not pursue any further action regarding her candidacy and the Hatch Act.
Martell wrote that the OSC would not launch a "full investigation," into the case unless it was "determined that an opinion was warranted and not a 'stretch' as this case appears to be."
The Hatch Act has affected two local candidates: K.C. Hume dropped out of the race for county coroner, and Lila Herod had to resign from her job as the county's chief deputy clerk and elections supervisor so she could remain eligible to run for county clerk and recorder.
Martell also addressed Danner's questions about her position as executive director with Yampa Valley Partners.
"You can only be covered as a result of a present position," Martell wrote Danner.
Danner consulted the OSC because the Hatch Act prohibits local or state employees with access to federal grants from running for elected office. Through her work at Yampa Valley Partners, Danner said she did not receive federal grants, only private grants.
Martell said her grant work previous to being a commissioner was not a Hatch Act violation.
On Friday, Danner received an e-mail from Martell addressing her question about running for election after being appointed to the commission.
Danner was appointed to the county commission in 2008, taking over for the late Saed Tayyara, who died while in office.
Martell said she was not prohibited from running for office because she was appointed.
"The information I received from the Hatch Act unit should put the issue to rest," Danner said.