The Fayette County Republican Central Committee has agreed to hold a re-vote and Aaron Coole has agreed to resign as county auditor in order to settle a lawsuit that alleges Coole’s April 13 appointment to the auditor position violated open meeting laws.
Although Coole agreed to resign, he is seeking to be re-appointed as Fayette County Auditor at the committee’s re-vote.
Fayette County Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Beathard signed a judgment entry Monday that the plaintiffs in the case – Jomi Ward, former county auditor Mike Smith and Fayette County Recorder Cathy Templin – reached an agreement with the Republican Central Committee. Coole was appointed as the new auditor during a central committee meeting held April 13 after Smith retired as auditor March 10.
According to the committee, Coole, the former owner of Sears Hometown Stores in Washington C.H., received more votes than Brenda Mossbarger, who was serving as acting auditor at the time and who worked in the Fayette County Auditor’s Office for 20 years. In the lawsuit that was filed, the plaintiffs claimed that the Republican Central Committee entered into executive session and voted by secret ballot, did not keep minutes of the meeting and unlawfully appointed Coole as auditor.
Now that an agreement has been reached and Coole is set to resign, another vote is scheduled to take place Nov. 9 “by roll call in an open meeting after proper notice,” according to the agreement. Only the two candidates who previously participated, Coole and Mossbarger, will be considered in the re-vote.
Coole said he is resigning his position effective at the end of business this Friday for the good of the county and the Fayette County Republican Party.
“I am resigning my position as Auditor in order to settle the ongoing lawsuit involving my appointment as Auditor in April of 2017,” Coole wrote in a statement to the Record-Herald. “This lawsuit has brought a lot unneeded angst and tension to the Fayette County Republican Central Committee and to the Auditor’s Office, neither of whom knowingly or willingly did anything wrong. The suit has become a distraction for the committee and I appreciate everything they have done to try and work through it.”
Coole went on to write: “My resignation will allow the Fayette County Republican Central Committee to hold a re-vote in order to fill the position. According to the Ohio Revised Code, the office has to be vacant for more than five days before the position can be filled. It is my hope and desire to be reappointed to the position of Fayette County Auditor when the committee meets to re-vote on November 9, 2017.”
On Monday, Templin, a Republican, confirmed that Mossbarger has agreed to participate in the re-vote. “She was under no obligation to do so, but she’s willing to make that gesture in an effort to get it resolved,” Templin said.
Templin told the Record-Herald that Coole won the vote over Mossbarger at the April 13 meeting by an 11-8 margin.
“There were only a total of 19 votes and six who could vote were not in attendance,” Templin said. “There were six votes uncast, so had they called for a re-vote, would the results have changed? Out of the whole committee, you have 25 possible votes.”
Templin said she is satisfied with the agreement, although she said she believes this dispute could have been resolved much earlier.
“After the suit was filed, they had a window of time once they knew they had violated the law,” Templin said. “They could have called an emergency meeting and got everybody back in and voted again properly. Had that been done back in April, I doubt very seriously that any of these issues would have been raised. But given the fact they chose not to do that, once the suit was filed, the plaintiffs had to insist that the type of vote be changed from a ballot vote, which of course was secret, to a roll call vote. So the vote that is going to be held on the 9th will be a roll call vote in front of all of the parties that happen to be interested and want to be present at this meeting.”
The 25 elected committee members who are eligible to vote on this appointment are: Jim Chrisman, Lauran Perrill, Susan Meriweather, John A. Link, Ronald Palmer, Evelyn Pentzer, Marlene Rankin, David A. Bivens, Oscar McKinney, Sidney Terhune, Ted Hawk, Daniel Roberts, Wayne Arnold, Frank Breedlove, Gordon Conn, Susan Jordan, Carol Cramer, Robin Beekman, Charles Anderson, Diane O’Cull, Renee Loyd, Martha Cooper, Ruth Ann Ruth, Karen Abenshein and Tabitha Melvin.
Templin said she wasn’t originally part of the suit that was initially filed by Jomi Ward, but said she felt compelled to join.
“Every possible issue they could have violated was violated at that meeting and I vowed to get on board and help her see this to its end,” Templin said.
Coole said he’s proud of the accomplishments made in his first six months in the auditor’s office. (The list of accomplishments will be included in a letter to the editor from Coole in an edition later this week).
“I believe public service should be just that – a service to the citizens of the county,” Coole wrote. “Those of us in government are tasked with providing a necessary public service, and we should provide that service in a way that is transparent, efficient, and cost-effective. The county elected officials and employees who hold these offices should not be motivated by self-interest, but by serving the taxpayers and accomplishing the job required to be done for the common good. My desire is and always has been to serve the public with efficiency and transparency. I hope the Committee will see that as my desire and reappoint me to the position of Auditor on November 9, 2017.”
The Nov. 9 meeting with the re-vote will be held at the Center of Economic Opportunity, 101 E. East St. in Washington C.H., at 7 p.m.
Reach Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352 or on Twitter @rywica