story by Ryan Saylor
The Sebastian County Election Commission on Monday (June 30) voted to hire former County Election Coordinator Jerry Huff as a consultant to work on elections through the end of this year even as the commission also announced Monday the hiring of Suzanne Morgan as election coordinator.
The commission has seen turmoil since the announced retirement of Huff earlier this year, with the county now having hired its third replacement for the election coordinator position since February.
The process for replacing Huff got off to a rocky start in November when an executive session was to be held for the interview of candidates that would have included numerous county officials who would not have direct oversight of the new coordinator were slated to be included in the meeting, against Arkansas' law regarding opening meetings.
A protest at the time by The City Wire resulted in the county judge ultimately complying with the law and eventually David Mansell was hired as the original replacement for Huff.
Errors made during his brief tenure, including the misspelling of U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin's name on the Republican ballots and placing candidates for lieutenant governor in the wrong place on the ballot, preceded Mansell's resignation.
The second hire to replace Huff was Robert Cowan, a former vice president at Rheem, who was hired in late May. Just weeks into his tenure in the job, Cowan resigned. In his resignation, Cowan said the position required more time than he originally anticipated, taking away from his other business interests and time with his family.
Morgan's hiring, which became official early last week, now makes her the third replacement for Huff.
In a specially called meeting of the Election Commission to make official Huff's hiring as a consultant, County Judge David Hudson said Huff would be on board to make sure the election runs smooth under Morgan's new leadership.
"(Huff will be) training and assisting Suzanne," Hudson said. "Suzanne will be the handling the action.”
Hudson elaborated, saying while all actions necessary to keep the county on schedule with regard to printing ballots and other items necessary before election day ever comes.
"Really the intent of this is to stay current, to stay ahead and be proactive and have solid elections through the rest of this year," he said.
Huff's fee for his consulting will be around $12,000 for the year, Hudson said, adding that the fee is determined on a per election basis instead of a flat hourly rate.
Election Commission Chairman Lee Webb said the majority of the funding to pay for Huff's consulting services will be covered and built into the election costs without having to tap much money from the county's general fund.
Once the electoral runoff, if needed, is completed later in November and the election is certified, Huff's consulting services with the county will end, Hudson said.