Prosecutor outlines new replacement legislation

PARKERSBURG – New legislation in effect in mid-July could affect the procedure for replacing Wood County Clerk Jamie Six, Wood County Prosecutor Jason Wharton said.

Six announced earlier he will leave the post he’s held for the past 26 years effective July 31 to spend more time with family and pursue other interests. The county commission will have the task of appointing Six’s replacement. The appointee must be of the same political party, Six is a Democrat. Six has said he will recommend deputy clerk Mark Rhodes as his replacement.

“There is a change in the law between now and the time Jamie’s resignation will become effective July 31. There are additional options now. As of today and until his retirement, there will not officially be a vacancy, it can’t be filled prior to that date, but that’s not to say the commission can’t go ahead and start the process and even announce, prior to the resignation being effective, who they intend to appoint to fill the vacancy,” Wharton said.

The commission can do an application process now, announce their decision July 31, then hold a special meeting, Wharton said. The prosecutor suggested the commission conduct the special meeting prior to 8:30 a.m., August 1 so the vacancy is declared and the replacement sworn in prior to the start of the business day at 8:30 a.m., August 1.

Another option allows the commission to announce the procedure, hold a special meeting after the resignation to declare the vacancy and determine who the appointee will be.

A third option, under the new legislation, allows commissioners to appoint a temporary successor to hold the office for up to 30 days until they determine who the appointee will be.

“As best I can tell, the Legislature intended that as an additional option for situations where an official resigns unexpectedly with little or no notice, or dies in office. That way the commission isn’t stuck with a long-term appointee until the next election can take place with little time to determine who the best replacement would be,” Wharton said. “Jamie gave more than 60 days notice so I don’t think that’s something the commission would necessarily want to follow, but it’s now an option.”

The appointee would serve until the results of the 2014 general election are certified. The individual elected would take office immediately after certification, not wait until Jan. 1. The individual elected would serve out the remainder of Six’s unexpired term. Then in 2016 the office would be opened up for anyone interested in running to file. The person elected in 2016 would serve a full new six-year term.

Six encouraged the commissioners not to delay a decision.

“You have 16 wonderful county employees who are very anxious to know what your intentions are so whatever your decision is, I would ask you let the employees know sooner rather than later,” Six said.

At least one county commissioner said he wants to open the process and accept resumes for consideration before making an appointment.

“I think we should approach this by taking resumes from the general public and see if there is a candidate out there. I think the citizens of Wood County deserve the best and most qualified person to hold that office until the next election,” said Commissioner Blair Couch.

Couch noted in the past, when appointments were made, the commission at the time accepted resumes for consideration prior to making an appointment as well as considered the elected officials’ recommendation.

If a quorum of the county commission cannot agree on a person to fill the vacancy within 30 days of the vacancy, the county executive committee of the vacating officials’ political party, in this case the Democratic committee, would select and name a person to fill the vacancy from their party.

The new legislation addressing new options for filling public office vacancies, Senate Bill 527, passed by the Legislature this session, becomes effective July 12.