gavel1 300HOPKINS COUNTY, Ky. (7/23/18) — A Hopkins Circuit Judge ruled in favor of a plaintiff today involving an elections violation complaint filed earlier this year.

Judge James Brantley offered his opinion and ordered to remove Jeremy Crick, a Democratic candidate for Hopkins County Sheriff, from the November General Election ballot. 

Crick said this evening that his lawyer plans to file an appeal on the decison this week.

Madisonville resident Will Coursey, a registered Democrat, claimed he filed the petition March 29 declaring Crick failed to comply with KRS 118.125 — an election law that requires candidates to have two witness signatures of the same political party.

According to court documents, Brantley referenced a similar Kentucky case as a factor to affirm his decision handed down today:

“The Supreme Court of Kentucky faced the identical issue in Morris v. Jefferson County Clerk (1987) … Morris, a candidate for Commonwealth Attorney, had Micheal Smither sign one of the 2 affidavits required to support his candidacy. Smither, however, had moved from the precinct in 1983 and was purged from voter registration. Smither was not registered at all. The Jefferson Circuit Court declared Morris to be in substantial compliance with the statute, however, the Court of Appeals reversed and ordered Morris’ name stricken from the ballot.”

Brantley listed the law also applies to Crick in supplying two registered voters of the same party, stating, “This issue could have been easily checked. There is no more excuse in this case for the error than there was in Morris. The Court is bound by law to grant this Petition.”

Despite Crick's Frankfort attorney Anna Whites’ argument for dismissal due to Coursey’s position as a deputy for Republican opponent Sheriff Matt Sanderson, and as a member of the Hopkins County Board of Elections, the judge sided with law.

Whites also claimed Coursey violated Hopkins County code of ethics as being a conflict of interest in his legal petition, since Crick is Sanderson's only current opposition on the ballot.

“Coursey is a deputy sheriff and as such bound by the code,” Branley wrote. “However, the code provides for remedy for violations of the Code by filing a complaint with the County Ethics Commission. There is no legal basis for dismissal of this action.”

Coursey claimed he filed the petition on his own time and funds, saying the election law was violated concerning Crick’s declaration for candidacy.

“I hate that we had to go through all this to get to this point, but I feel that the law is the law, and the judge made the right decision,” Coursey said.

Doreen Dennis
SurfKY News Director
Region 2
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Previous story: Judge Makes No Quick Decision in Validity of Hopkins Sheriff Candidate Filing

HOPKINS COUNTY, Ky. (7/18/18) — After more than two hours of testimony, Hopkins Circuit Judge James Brantley said in court today that he would review all the information presented and soon announce his decision on whether a Democratic candidate for sheriff can remain on the November Election ballot.

A civil action petition was filed by registered Democrat Will Coursey March 29, citing a Kentucky election law was violated when Jeremy Crick filed his candidate declaration form that listed the signature of a registered Republican as a witness in addition to the signature of a registered Democrat.

Coursey cited Kentucky statute 118.125 lists a candidate “shall” have signatures of at least “two registered voters of the same party from the district or jurisdiction from which the candidate seeks nomination.”

The matter was brought before the judge last month. Brantley denied Anna Whites’ request to dismiss the case until he heard testimony from both sides concerning the issue. Whites is a Frankfort attorney representing Crick.

Today, Whites and the petitioner’s attorney, Marc Wells, presented information for the judge to hear.

Wells produced documents listing that Crick filed his declaration for candidacy 3 p.m. Jan. 30, an hour before the deadline, with witness signatures of Crick’s wife, Stephanie Crick, and daughter, Heather Kelley.

“At the time you filed, you concur with me that you were filing as a Democratic candidate?” Wells asked Crick. “Would you concur with me your daughter was not a registered as a Democrat?”

Crick affirmed the information, saying he did not know his daughter was a registered Republican at the time, and County Clerk Keenan Cloern had informed him about the situation per a phone conversation Feb. 5 that Kelley was not a registered Democrat.

“It would be my responsibility … for anything that goes on that form,” Crick told Wells, concerning the party affiliation of the witness signature. Crick also stated that he contacted his daughter to change her voter registration upon recommendation of Cloern.

Wells presented an exhibit that showed Kelley had changed her voter registration Feb. 5 to Democrat after the filing deadline.

Whites presented the text messages exchanged between Crick and Cloern.

Crick said Cloern had asked him to give her a call Feb. 5 via text message. During that call, Crick said Cloern told him that a deputy clerk was going through the candidate forms, when she noticed the error.

“I was under the impression that she needed to change her registration,” Crick said. “Cloern did not make a statement that it would correct the problem.”

On the witness stand, Cloern answered questions pertaining to her role as county clerk and chairwoman on the Hopkins County Board of Elections. Cloern maintained that she accepts candidate forms on face value and is not required to check the information pertaining to witness party affiliations.

After Cloern called Crick, she said, “He was in shock.”

Whites asked Cloern the name of the deputy clerk who found the mistake. Cloern indicated it was Julie Greer, adding that she did not believe Greer was checking candidate forms. Cloern stated her office receives calls for information on a daily basis concerning public records. She also noted that if she sees that a form is incomplete after a candidate files, she notifies them within 24 hours to correct the problem.

In this case, the deadline to make a correction on the form had already expired. Crick did amend his candidate declaration form in April after he did not receive a Kentucky Registration of Election Filings number, due to not checking the box for “Primary Election.”

Crick maintains he did not have an opponent and was not listed on the May Primary Election ballot, therefore his candidacy should not be affected by the KRS statute of having a witness signature of the opposing party.

Whites asked Cloern in her capacity as Election Board chair whether there were a specific set of ethics guidelines the board follows. Cloern indicated there are board guidelines but no specific ethics are outlined. After the board learned of the issue concerning Crick, they called a special meeting March 8 to discuss the matter. The board subsequently certified Crick as a candidate, and would not file suit to contest him after consulting with County Attorney Byron Hobgood.

Coursey took the stand, saying he filed the petition on his own accord and time, and had learned about the issue concerning Crick’s candidacy form from his boss, Hopkins County Sheriff Matt Sanderson, a Republican. Coursey stated he works as a supervisor in the office and also serves on the local election board.

Coursey stated Sanderson advised him not to pursue the issue. Coursey filled the position on the election board in Sanderson’s place, since Sanderson is on the ballot. Coursey said he paid to file the petition and paid Wells to represent him out of his personal funds.

“I reviewed the document the sheriff obtained after he filed an open records request,” Coursey told Whites, adding that he believes all candidates should file correctly under the current laws. He also indicated that he did not file the petition to keep his job under the current administration, and he plans to hold his job for the next four years.

“It has nothing to do with my board of elections position,” Coursey said. “It has to do with following the law and done in a proper manner. I, as an individual, decided to take action ... no one told me to me to do that.”

Coursey said he held no ill will against Crick, although he stated on the record that he doesn’t believe they will be going out for a bite to eat together after court.

Whites asked Coursey what would become of the vote should Crick not be able to run. Coursey said, it’s part of the job to look into whether candidates file properly, noting he does not make it a habit and has never filed a petition against anyone. He mentioned the board of elections receives complaints often and it is their role to look into those complaints.

When Whites asked Coursey if Crick was entitled to be on the ballot, Wells quickly objected, “saying, “We’re talking about KRS.” The two attorneys were called to the judge’s bench.

Whites also called Crick to the stand, asking if Crick is campaigning and receiving election donations. Wells also objected to the question, stating the case was not about a campaign.

In her closing statement, Whites argued that Coursey’s positions posed a conflict of interest, and that Crick not having opposition on the Primary Election ballot voids out the witness signature as far as the General Election is concerned.

Whites made her second motion before the judge to dismiss the case today, noting Crick is qualified to move forward.

“This is a personal matter and (Coursey filed the petition) on behalf of his boss,” she said.

Wells declared Crick’s bonafide credibility as a candidate is in question that is subject to a court decision, citing Morris vs Jefferson, a similar court case that was upheld by the Kentucky Supreme Court in 1987 that disqualified a candidate.

“The law places the duty on the candidate,” Wells said. “The matter could be easily determined and there is no excuse. (The law) is very clear.”

Brantley said he would review all the testimony. He upheld both attorneys for their outstanding work regarding the issue at hand.

The judge indicated he would render a swift decision and notify the attorneys once that has been determined.

Afterward, Crick said he will continue his campaign no matter what the judge decides, and will run as a write-in candidate if he were to be removed from the November ballot. Another option would be to file an appeal to the Supreme Court within five days.

“All I want to do is run the campaign the way I set out to do,” Crick said.

Coursey said, “The law is the law,” and does not lend discretion otherwise.

Doreen Dennis

SurfKY News

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