A petition is circulating to have a special election for Cherokee County attorney.
Assuming the petition receives the required 451 signatures and is filed within the June 8 deadline, the special election shall be held within 30 days from the presentation of the petition to the Cherokee County auditor.
To be on the ballot, a candidate must have at least 88 signatures on a nomination petition or be nominated by party convention.
The position of Cherokee County Attorney went from part-time to full-time as of Jan. 1 of this year. The Cherokee County Board of Supervisors had passed a resolution setting the salary for the elected position at $55,000 a year.
The office was up for election in November of last year but no one was on the ballot. No one ran for nomination to the position in the June primary and no one petitioned to be on the ballot as an independent.
The supervisors advertised for the position, interviewed applicants and subsequently hired Jamie Bowers at a salary of $92,000 a year. In March, Bowers informed the supervisors of his intent to resign but agreed to stay on while another attorney was being sought.
Again the supervisors sought applicants and conducted interviews. James Tiernan was hired as the county attorney at a salary of $70,000 per year. He initially started as assistant county attorney on May 22 and begins duties as the county attorney today (Friday, June 1).
Whether Bowers or Tiernan remained in the office, it would remain an elective office that would need to be voted on at the next countywide election. Prior to the present petition, there had been no pending countywide elections prior to November of 2008.
George Wittgraf, a Cherokee attorney, is one of the people circulating the petition calling for the special election. He said the main impetus for the call for a special election was the fact that a life-long county resident, Ryan Kolpin, had been among the applicants for the position during the last round of interviews, but the supervisors chose someone from outside the county.
Kolpin has a private practice with an office in Aurelia as well as serving as the county magistrate. He would need to resign his magistrate position if he became a county attorney.
Wittgraf said that what has changed since the election was the salary being offered by the supervisors, going from $55,000 to be given to the winner of the election in November, to $92,000 for Bowers who has considerable experience as a prosecutor, to $70,000 for Tiernan who has considerably less experience as a prosecutor.
Bonnie Ebel, county auditor, said that it was her opinion that as it now stands, the winner of a special election would receive what the supervisors last determined by resolution for someone elected to the position, which is $55,000.
The supervisors could choose to pass a new salary resolution prior to the election but it was uncertain whether the supervisors could increase the salary for an individual after the election. That is, it is uncertain whether the salary for Tiernan could remain at $70,000 if he won an election to the office that would otherwise pay someone $55,000.
"That's the type of question that the state attorney general needs to answer and that could take six months," Ebel said.
An article in the June 1 Chronicle Times and an editorial in the June 4 edition both incorrectly listed the salary of Jamie Bowers as $92,000. The salary of the person who recently resigned as Cherokee County Attorney was $90,000.