For the second time in just short of seven months, Aaron Coole has been appointed as Fayette County Auditor.
Coole, who resigned as auditor last Friday as part of a settlement with plaintiffs who alleged Coole’s April 13 appointment violated open meeting laws, won a roll call re-vote at Thursday night’s Fayette County Republican Central Committee meeting by a 19-5 margin against Brenda Mossbarger.
“It’s been a long six months,” Coole said following the meeting held at the Center of Economic Opportunity in Washington C.H. “I want to thank the committee for their support and I just want to do the best job I can for the people of Fayette County. Now, I just want to work with everybody and move forward.”
Coole said he hopes to be sworn in as auditor again by the middle of next week. The Fayette County Commissioners appointed longtime Fayette County Auditor’s Office employee, Kelli Dresch, as the interim auditor on Monday to fill in until the re-vote was taken.
Once Mike Smith, a Republican, retired as Fayette County Auditor March 10 before his term expired, by law the local Republican central committee is required to appoint an individual as the new auditor. Mossbarger, a longtime employee in the auditor’s office who served as acting auditor after Smith retired, and Coole, the former owner of Sears Hometown Stores in Washington C.H., decided to make their cases to the central committee.
According to the committee, Coole received more votes than Mossbarger at the April 13 meeting. A civil suit was filed in the Fayette County Common Pleas Court April 19 by Jomi Ward. The original complaint was amended and Ward was joined by two other plaintiffs – Mike Smith and Fayette County Recorder Cathy Templin.
In the lawsuit that was filed, the plaintiffs claimed that the Fayette County 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.
The vote count at the April 13 meeting was not released by the committee, however, Templin told the Record-Herald that Coole won by an 11-8 margin. Twenty-five elected committee members are eligible to vote on this appointment.
Rather than go to trial, the committee came to an agreement with the plaintiffs that was signed by Judge Steven Beathard Oct. 30. Coole agreed to resign “in order to settle the ongoing lawsuit” involving his appointment.
An agreement was reached to hold a roll call vote in an open meeting after proper notice. Only the two candidates who previously participated, Coole and Mossbarger, were considered in the re-vote.
In front of a large crowd, 24 of the 25 committee members announced their choice Thursday. John Link was not in attendance.
Those who voted for Coole included: Jim Chrisman, Lauran Perrill, Susan Meriweather, Evelyn Pentzer, Marlene Rankin, Oscar McKinney, Ted Hawk, Dan Roberts, Wayne Arnold, Frank Breedlove, Gordon Conn, Susan Jordan, Carol Cramer, Robin Beekman, Charles Anderson, Renee Loyd, Martha Cooper, Karen Abenshein and Tabitha Melvin.
Those who voted for Mossbarger were: Ronald Palmer, Andy Bivens, Sidney Terhune, Diane O’Cull and Ruth Ann Ruth.
Following the meeting, Mossbarger declined to comment.
Fayette County Commissioner Dan Dean said he’s glad the process has come to an end.
“I’m glad it’s over and now we can get back to business as usual,” he said. “In my opinion, Aaron’s been doing a good job in the auditor’s office.”
Reach Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352 or on Twitter @rywica