Scott County has a new auditor, but local Democrats are pushing for a quick special election to give the voters a say in the matter.
Yesterday morning, the Scott County Board of Supervisors met to announce and vote on a replacement for longtime Democratic County Auditor Roxanna Moritz, who resigned last month. The board’s three Republicans voted in Kerri Tompkins to be the new elections chief in Iowa’s third-largest county, while the two Democratic supervisors did not support her.
Only two of the five members of the board knew who it was ahead of time.
Chairman Ken Beck and Supervisor Tony Knobbe—both Republicans—discussed and proposed the nominee before the meeting and without notifying the other three members, including Republican member John Maxwell.
The nominee’s name wasn’t released until yesterday, partly at her request. Tompkins served on the Davenport City Council until 2019 and works at MindFire Communications, a local advertising agency.
“This is a role that I don’t set policy,” Tompkins said after the vote regarding Republicans’ new voting restrictions, the Quad-City Times reported. “My job is to follow the law that they have set in place. That’s something you just work through, and if that’s the law, I will follow it.”
On Friday, Maxwell said he’d been kept out of the loop, and suggested Beck and Knobbe meant to work around Iowa’s open meeting laws by coming to the decision without input from the public or other board members.
Supervisor Ken Croken also criticized the board for not having public comments or a review from the rest of the board.
“That is the arbitrary decision of the chairman of the board and an inappropriate decision of the chairman of the board,” Croken said. “It is irresponsible of the board to approve an appointment for such an important position when we only received the name of the appointee last night, after business hours, when there could be no such time for review.”
Beck disagreed, saying the board was “shoved” into this position when Moritz, the longtime former auditor, resigned April 23. State Auditor Rob Sand recently launched an investigation into whether poll workers were overpaid by the local auditor’s office.
Knobbe said it isn’t worth the money to have a special election because turnouts for them are typically low, and he doesn’t think that’s a representative sample of voters. He also pointed to precedent for the supervisors to make appointments and have voters confirm at the first election.
He also said the timing and secrecy shouldn’t be a concern, and explained that he thinks Tompkins is a qualified nominee for the position.
“If you think I wasn’t anxious to be shouting from the rooftop, the name of such a qualified candidate you’d be wrong,” he said.
Maxwell, who had been kept in the dark, said he recognized her name when he heard about it late Monday.
“Kerri actually goes to my church,” he said. “So my immediate call went to my pastor to talk about Kerri and his dealings with her, and he had nothing but praise as well.”
Not everyone sees it that way.
The Scott County Democrats have announced a petition drive to force a special election for the position.
“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,” said Elesha Gayman, chair of the Scott County Democrats, in their press release.
The group only has two weeks to collect over 9,000 signatures to force the election.
“The Scott County Democrats call on the Republicans 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.”
by Nikoel Hytrek