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Selection of unnamed GOP Scott County auditor pick prompts call for investigation
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Selection of unnamed GOP Scott County auditor pick prompts call for investigation

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Republican Scott County Supervisor John Maxwell continues to maintain that he does not know the identity and has not discussed with other supervisors the lone candidate being considered to become the next Scott County Auditor.

That despite the North Scott Press reporting last week that Maxwell had spoken with the prospective appointee, whom fellow Republican supervisors Ken Beck and Tony Knobbe have refused to name.

The Scott County Board of Supervisors will meet virtually at 8 a.m. Tuesday to consider a resolution approving the unnamed appointment to fill the auditor vacancy.

Neither Tuesday's meeting agenda nor an accompanying resolution state who supervisors will consider to fill the county auditor position that comes with a taxpayer-funded salary set at $90,949 for the current fiscal year.

The agenda and call-in instructions to listen to the meeting are available at www.scottcountyiowa.gov/board/board-meetings.

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Former Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz, a Democrat, retired April 23.

Kerri Tompkins

Kerri Tompkins

Beck, chairman of the board of supervisors, said he has interviewed an auditor applicant. And he and Knobbe said they have both discussed the candidate they claim is well-suited for the role, and whose name they will put forward Tuesday, but have not shared that individual's name with other supervisors at the person's request. The pair have said the individual requested their name not be made public for fear it would jeopardize their current employment if leaked ahead of the meeting.

Maxwell told the Quad-City Times Friday he had been "left in the dark," and suggested an intent by Beck and Knobbe to skirt Iowa's public meeting requirements.

In an interview Monday, Maxwell claimed the North Scott Press was mistaken when it reported he "knows and has spoken with the prospective appointee." Maxwell claims he was pressed to name the appointee, which he said he would not, and that the North Scott Press took that to mean he knows the identity of the prospective appointee.

"I don't know who it is. Still don't know who it is," Maxwell continued to assert Monday.

The North Scott Press on Monday declined to comment on its reporting, but has not issued a correction.

The county auditor, among other duties, oversees and runs elections within the county.

The level of secrecy has raised questions as to whether Republican supervisors violated Iowa's open meetings law.

Supervisor Ken Croken, a Democrat, enlisted an attorney, who sent a letter Friday to Scott County Attorney Michael Walton requesting his office look into the matter, suggesting Beck, Knobbe and Maxwell had reached a consensus in private, in violation of state law, on extending an offer to their preferred appointee.

Walton on Monday said he intends to request a closed-door meeting with supervisors at their next scheduled Committee of the Whole meeting on June 8 to discuss the letter, citing potential litigation.

"The letter alleges violating the open meetings law that could result in litigation," Walton said, adding he does not anticipate the prospect of litigation to hinder supervisors from going ahead with Tuesday's planned vote on an appointment.

Maxwell on Monday was critical of the secretive process used by Beck and Knobbe to fill the auditor vacancy, and said he will likely not vote Tuesday to appoint their unnamed candidate. Maxwell, however, did not rule out doing so in the future, after having time to "vet this person."

"I'm not saying I won't vote for this person eventually, but I can tell you I don't feel comfortable voting without knowing that it's a good candidate to put in there," Maxwell said. "The only way that I would is if I said, 'Oh! That's the person. I know this person. I know this person very well, and I do feel comfortable.' But that, I think, is pretty rare."

As for Croken's call for an investigation and the prospect of a lawsuit, "I welcome it," Maxwell said.

"Bring it on," he said. "I know I've got a winner. ... John Maxwell doesn't lie."

Knobbe last week told the Times "the public will certainly have a chance to weigh in" on the auditor appointment Tuesday.

However, there is nothing on Tuesday's supervisors' agenda to suggest that the public will be given an opportunity to air concerns or voice objections before supervisors vote on making an appointment.

"If we expect to have transparent, fair and secure elections, we need to begin with a process to select our commissioner of elections in a transparent and fair way," Scott County Democratic Party Chairwoman Elesha Gayman said in a statement Monday.

Scott County Democrats announced last week they will launch a petition to force a special election to fill the vacant Scott County Auditor position, seen as a long shot.

The petitioners will need collect nearly 9,300 valid signatures from eligible Scott County voters in 14 days after supervisors make an appointment.

"Any way you look at this situation, it is bad for the voters and bad for democracy," Gayman said, pointing to recent election law changes passed by the Republican-majority Iowa Legislature that shortened early voting and altered special election law that covers the auditor's vacancy.

"It's electoral chicanery masquerading as good government," Gayman said. "The head commissioner of our elections must be someone the voters can have absolute trust and faith in to conduct and preserve our most important right in a democracy: Our right to vote."

Gayman called on the Scott County Board of Supervisors "to turn back from the appearance of corruption and cronyism with this secret appointment and instead allow the voters of Scott County to decide who they trust to lead our elections."

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