Government, News

Preston County prosecutor disputes handling of primary election certification

KINGWOOD — The Preston County prosecutor disputed the way the county commission handled the certification of the primary election Thursday, including the circuit judge’s race in which he was a candidate.

Prior to the commission’s 9 a.m. Thursday meeting to certify the results of the election, Prosecutor Mel Snyder III sat in the meeting room, holding what appeared to be a state code book. He and County Administrator Kathy Mace spoke, then went into the adjoining public cloak room. Their raised voices could be heard in the meeting room.

Snyder said that the commission was, “clueless on canvassing — half the stuff that’s in here you didn’t do.”

“Everything I look at in here happened, 90 percent is wrong,” he said.

He asked if commissioners had any training on canvassing.  Dave Price, who was the only commissioner present at the time, also went into the room and said he had gone to training about four years ago.
Snyder then left and declined to comment when asked about the exchange later by The Dominion Post.

Mace left, then returned to the room with County Clerk Linda Huggins. The two said they had just gotten off the phone with Chuck Flannery and Donald Kersey of the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, who advise them on certifying the election.
“I’m tired of his crap, and if you want to say that he has made his opinion known,” Mace said. “I don’t know what his problem is. Ask him.

“His question today was that every circuit judge is multi-jurisdictional,” Mace said. “That is incorrect.  Our circuit judge serves only our county. Therefore we can certify every local race.”

Snyder was one of four candidates for the unexpired term of Preston Circuit judge and lost the seat to Steve Shaffer by more than 300 votes.

Mace said the secretary of state’s office said the certification could be made 48 hours after commissioners declared the end of the canvass, which was 3:15 p.m. Monday.

The commission did not certify the race for Preston County commissioner, where a recount has been requested; the 14th District Senate race; the 53rd District House of Delegates race and any other offices that encompass other counties, where those other counties have not yet declared the race.

“We’ve been told that we can’t do that until next week,” Mace said. “So if there’s no hold up for the other counties, we’re going to wait until our next meeting, which is the 23rd.”

All the races certified Thursday were verified as local races through the secretary of state’s office, Mace said.
“Now, the prosecutor has a problem. Maybe he has more than one problem, but he needs to take that up with the appropriate official, not stand there and read a part of the code which is referencing family court judges and senate races and circuit judges,” Mace said.

She said Snyder is correct that in circuits where the judge serves more than one county, “you must wait until all counties have declared and the 48 hours from the last one,” is up. Preston’s circuit judge serves only one county.
Huggins said they called the secretary of state because, “We wanted to verify that what we were going to certify today was correct, and that the circuit judge, our `18th Judicial Circuit judge, is truly Preston County-only. He doesn’t practice in any of the other [counties] and was it OK to certify this race? And they agreed it was.”
Huggins said she did not know Snyder had an issue until Thursday.

Mace apologized to commissioners for her behavior Thursday and said Snyder had previously come into the commission office and disputed the process being followed. “And today he’s on the attack.”
She said that she had told Snyder she was “sick of the matter” and to arrest or indict her, if he thought she acted illegally, and to go to the county clerk or commissioners, if he believed she was advising them wrongly.
Price and Commissioner Craig Jennings, who attended the meeting by phone, voted 2-0 to certify the local races other than that for county commission, because a recount has been requested in that race. Commissioner Don Smith did not attend the meeting.