After reading Republican Party’s attorney Lane Turturice’s ill-informed letter asking the governor to remove the clerk of courts (“Washington County GOP asks governor, others, to remove clerk of courts,” Oct. 12, Observer-Reporter), it became painfully clear that Turturice lacks the basic understanding of the roles and responsibilities of county government. He implies that the county commissioners have not done enough to remove the clerk of courts for perceived wrongdoing. What he does not seem to realize is that the clerk of courts is elected by the voters, and the commissioners have no authority over that office.

Turturice also does not seem to realize that the county controller, not the commissioners, performed the annual audit that caught the missing funds from the clerk of court’s office. The controller conducts these audits every year as part of his responsibilities. The missing funds were turned up as part of this routine audit. Annual audits are performed by the controller to make sure our elected officials are properly accounting for every taxpayer dollar that goes through the county offices and are spending these dollars responsibly. In this case the audit found some significant irregularities, which is exactly what the auditing process is designed to do.

It is also odd that Turturice did not realize that once the discrepancy was discovered, the commissioners turned the investigation over to the state police, not the district attorney’s office. This was done to ensure that an independent third party – the state police – would lead the investigation. This also removed any hint of political favoritism from either side by taking the investigation outside the courthouse. Furthermore, he also called for the clerk of court’s removal by the governor without any proof of wrongdoing by him or other employee of the office. Once the investigation is completed and the facts can be brought forth to the public, the proper authorities can then determine what further actions, if any, need to be taken. However the U.S. Constitution guarantees due process and “innocent until proven guilty.” Our American values call for us to be patient and allow the state police to conduct their investigation without outside political pressure.

Turturice’s complete lack of understanding of how county government works, the roles elected officials play and citizens’ rights guaranteed under the Constitution shows why we need to bring civics classes back to our schools. Maybe he can then take a refresher course.

Ben Bright

Washington County Democratic Committee chairman