Alex Reed, who resigned from the Pulaski County Election Commission last week after reports that he’d been working as campaign treasurer for Republican congressional candidate Ann Clemmer, leaves a trail of unanswered questions. He’s not in the office today to answer them, a happenstance that spawned a number of other questions the secretary of state’s office won’t answer.
Blue Hog reported the obvious conflict in state law of Reed’s service on the Election Commission and as a campaign treasurer for Clemmer. I also think his employment by Mark Martin, who’ll be on the ballot in Pulaski County this year, was equally problematic.
But the problem didn’t end there. Clemmer announced that Reed’s association with the campaign ended some time ago. The campaign has reported more than $9,000 in improper disbursements to Reed and a $20,000 loan from Reed to the campaign, partly to pay back those reimbursements. Clemmer has declined to say much more, but a Federal Election Commission probe is sure to follow.
I’ve tried to talk further to Reed, but he’s remained silent. I was curious today if he was still employed by the secretary of state. An implication of personal use of federal campaign money is serious business, not just a little state political story. And Republican officials have tried to say they wouldn’t have appointed Reed to the county election post had they known of his Clemmer campaign work. I wondered about his boss in that regard.
I sent a note to Reed’s email account, asking if he was at work.
My response came from Mark Myers, director of strategic initiatives. He’s a key political operative in the office who helped stage Martin’s campaign in 2010. He didn’t say how he came to be reading Reed’s e-mail, but he asked if there was anything he could help with. Why, yes. In the next email, I said:
I wanted to ask if he is still a member of the secretary of state’s staff. And will he continue to be? I was wondering whether the office was aware of his participation in a congressional campaign. I do wonder how that squares with the [Mark Martin] campaign promise that employees wouldn’t be involved in political campaigns. I wonder if there are any questions about handling of money in the SOS office.
1) We do not comment on personnel matters; however, I can confirm that Mr. Reed is still an employee today.
2) As you and I have discussed many, many times the campaign promise was that only elections-oriented officials would not be involved in campaigns not the entire office. I hope this is ground we do not have to cover again.
I disputed his alibi on staffers’ political activities. Reed has been a spokesman for the office, including on election matters. And if a county election commissioner isn’t elections-oriented, I don’t know who is. I remarked to Myers that public accountability seemed to demand answers to some questions, including:
1) Did anyone in Martin’s office know of Alex’s campaign role?
2) Didn’t the office think there was a conflict of interest in an employee of someone who is on the ballot in Pulaski County taking a role overseeing elections in Pulaski County? If not, why not? [Martin is on the ballot, remember]
3) The SOS approved of an employee being a member of a public agency that is suing him (the county election commission)? This is not a conflict of interest, but Tim Fox is? (Martin asked Judge Fox to get off the Voter ID case naming Martin as a defendant, but only after losing the case brought by the Election Commission. When Fox last run for office, he touted his endorsement by a Republican committee.)
4) On an unrelated matter, why is the secretary of state trying to see state and federal income tax returns of plaintiffs in the Voter ID lawsuit? What is the relevance of their tax returns? Or, for that matter, the relevance of any federal or state benefits they may have received, information also being sought by Martin?
5) Is it office policy that others may look at e-mail accounts of office staffers? Do staff members know that?
UPDATE: After posting this, I did hear back from Myers. His answers:
1) Same response. “We do not comment on internal personnel matters.”
2) See answer to #1. Same response.
3) The Commission did not vote to sue the Secretary, while Alex was on the Commission. Lots of people in public positions end up in these type quandries. As far as Alex’s position on the lawsuit, I will have to refer you to him.
4) Lawyers ask for all kinds of things during discovery as the husband of a former judge you know that. If opposing counsel thinks it is irrelevant, then they can ask the judge to decide. The specific reasons may or may not involve a certain legal strategy, therefore it would be foolish to discuss that strategy or lack thereof one.
5) Alex went on leave unexpectantly while I was away for a three-day Army Reserve drill weekend, so I did not get a chance to remind him to put an out-of-office notice on his email. I asked for and received permission to have his email forwarded to me for the time being.