Marvin Lessmann resigned from the Faulkner County Election Commission after Thursday night’s meeting, which was described by several who attended as "contentious."
In a news release issued by Lessmann on Friday, he states that "he can better utilize his time working in other areas to help the residents of Faulkner County."
Lessmann’s news release goes on to state the he encourages "the new commission to stop the ‘Washington style politics’ going forward, and to "work together" and "stay legal."
In a second news release issued by Lessmann on Friday, he calls for the resignation of Faulkner County Clerk Melinda Reynolds, stating that, "He felt (Reynolds’) admission of violation of election laws relative to absence ballots (left him with) no choice," and that, "Her partisan politics have driven his decisions."
Lessmann said on Friday that Reynolds had admitted during Thursday’s meeting that she had never compared signatures found on absentee ballots to those found on the absentee ballot applications, which he said was a negligence of her duty that rose to the level of illegality.
Reynolds was contacted on Friday afternoon but declined to comment.
Lessmann, a Republican, went on to say Friday that he felt this constituted the forwarding of a partisan "agenda" by Democratic election officials.
Faulkner County Election Commission Chairman Frank Shaw, who was elected chair at the new commission’s previous – and first – meeting in February, said that he had asked County Attorney Stephan Hawks for an interpretation of the laws concerning verification of absentee ballots.
Hawks said on Friday that his review of these laws "has been relegated pretty much to (Friday), and it is cursory at best," but at first blush, it would seem that the language of the law placed the burden of verifying absentee ballots on "a poll worker appointed by the commissioners to be an election clerk or election judge or election sheriff," and not necessarily on the county clerk.
Hawks cautioned that he was still reviewing the details of the matter, and wanted to make it clear that he had not reached any firm decision as to Reynolds’ responsibilities or her performance at them.
Lessmann also said on Friday that he took issue with the nature of the minutes of the February meeting, which the commission voted would be recorded by Reynolds after Lessmann turned down a nomination to serve as commission secretary. Lessmann said on Friday that Reynolds’ minutes were inadequate, and that Reynolds had not been able to provide him with the minutes of previous meetings when he requested them prior to Thursday’s meeting.
Lessmann brought to Thursday night’s meeting an amended version of Reynolds’ minutes, adding about half a page to Reynolds' two-page document.
Lessmann added that a commissioner or the election clerk is legally bound to keep and submit minutes to the county clerk.
According to Shaw, Lessmann brought a three-page document that Lessmann intended to be adopted as the official minutes of the February meeting in lieu of Reynolds’ minutes. His motion to have his minutes adopted into the record died for lack of a second, Shaw said. The third commissioner, Phillip Lipsmeyer, had notified the commission in advance that he would be absent.
"He refused to serve as secretary, and so we asked the county clerk to take minutes of our meeting, and then he took his own minutes and dropped them on me, because I was the only commissioner there," Shaw said. … "I asked him repeatedly to be secretary (Thursday) night, and I told him that his minutes were really nicely done, but that we didn’t need two sets of minutes for the same meeting and so we tabled them for the next meeting.
"We couldn’t even agree on the minutes," Shaw continued, "and the whole time he had his letter of resignation in his pocket. As chairman of the election commission I can say that there is no agenda other than an open and fair election, and I resent the implication, if it’s directed at me, that I have any agenda beyond that. When he says that this reminds him of Washington politics, I agree – that is if you’re referring to gridlock. We certainly had gridlock yesterday at the election commission when we couldn’t agree on the minutes to be introduced, and that’s after the commission, Mr. Lessmann included, had agreed on who would take the minutes."
Lessmann will be replaced by Phillip Liggett, who agreed at the February meeting to help train poll workers. Shaw said that he was confident in Liggett’s knowledge and capability, and that he looked forward to working with him.