Moffat County Commissioner Frank Moe explains recusal
March 29, 2018
CRAIG — Moffat County Commissioner and commission candidate Frank Moe recused himself from a Board of County Commissioners vote earlier this week because he believed the results of that vote might impact how quickly his petition to get on the Republican primary ballot would be certified, he said Thursday in a meeting with the Craig Press.
During the BOCC's regular meeting Tuesday morning, Moe recused himself due to a conflict of interest and stepped out of the room as the BOCC discussed whether to replace an employee who had resigned from the motor vehicle department in the Moffat County Clerk and Recorders office.
Moe said he saw his participation in the vote as a conflict of interest, as his petition to appear on the Republican primary ballot is being handled by the clerk and recorder’s office.
Candidates can secure a spot on the ballot by petition or by receiving 30 percent of the delegate's vote during Saturday's Republican county assembly.
Earlier this year, Moe announced his intention to petition onto the Republican primary ballot , as he missed the caucus to attend a meeting in Washington D.C.
To petition onto the ballot, a candidate must collect a number of signatures equal to 20 percent of the votes cast for that office in the previous election. These signatures are submitted to the clerk and recorder's office, which verifies that each name represents a party member with a current registration.
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Inevitably, some signatures aren't counted, because they do not meet the standards of certification. Some voters may have moved and forgotten to change their addresses, and some are not formally registered to the correct party. Such signatures are thrown out and do not count toward the required total.
Moe needed 418 certified signatures to get on the ballot. On March 20, he said, he submitted a petition with about 560 signatures.
Moe said he's checked on the progress of certification about every other day since submitting his petition. Each time, he said, he was told it was progressing slowly.
"In their opinion, they had a shortage of labor in their office," Moe said. "Between their shortage of labor, illness and vacation, they weren't able to put the effort into it I believe that should've been for any candidate."
The results of the certification are important to Moe, because they influence how he will participate in Saturday’s Republican County Assembly.
When a request to re-hire a position in the Motor Vehicle Department in the clerk and recorder's office came up on Tuesday's BOCC meeting agenda, Moe said he consulted county attorney Rebecca Tyree to determine if it was appropriate that he recuse himself due to a conflict of interest.
"If I vote ‘yes,’ it could be perceived as 'Frank wants to get more help in there right away to ensure his ballot and petition is taken care of prior to the county assembly,'" Moe said.
"Because he had such a big stake in this, he didn't feel like he should be voting to fund a position, because he might be voting because he thought they might treat him better and do that petition faster," Tyree said Thursday. "If he feels like it's a conflict of interest, and he may not be able to be unbiased, I said, 'You're not needed to have a quorum.' I had no idea these guys would not agree with each other."
Ultimately, Moe recused himself from the vote, which ended in a deadlock.
"It was the moral and ethical thing to do," he said.
During the meeting, Craig Mayor John Ponikvar questioned why Moe had recused himself from the vote. A discussion about the recusal started, but BOCC Chairman Ray Beck determined the meeting was not open to audience questions and opened discussion on the next agenda item.
"The mayor interrupting our meeting to interject his personal opinion, whether it was as a private citizen or as an elected official, was inappropriate and something he, himself, does not allow during the city council proceedings that he chairs," Moe said.
Moe said he did not state the reason for his recusal during the meeting, because the statute does not require it.
The position the BOCC voted on would not have been involved in certifying signatures, according to Moffat County Clerk and Recorder Lila Herod. Employees in the Election Department and the Motor Vehicle Department are cross-trained on some roles, but the task of certifying signatures on ballot petitions falls only to the Election Department.
Herod said procedures are being followed in validating Moe's petition. Statute dictates the petition must be certified by April 27. Herod also said the possibility of the petition being reviewed in court is motivation to get it right.
"This really is a critical legal process, and I've been in court before on a petition," Herod said. "I tried to explain that to Frank (Moe): 'We're handling your petition with every perception we'll end up in court.'"
Asked if he was aware of the fact that the Motor Vehicle position voted on Tuesday would not have been involved in certifying elections, Moe said he knew that elections employees sometimes helped in the Motor Vehicle Department.
"From my understanding, people do have primary duties, and I can't say that these (Motor Vehicle Department employees) are cross-trained to elections, but if I am not mistaken, the elections people also can help in the other departments."
A personal requisition workshop is scheduled next week, and the position will be discussed at that time, Moe said. He added that action on the Motor Vehicle Department position would likely be decided in a future BOCC meeting and that he did not intend to recuse himself, as the reason for his recusal will have passed.
"I will definitely be voting," he said.