County rules allow public support for candidates
Publicly expressing support of a candidate when you’re a Curry County employee may be frowned upon by some, but it’s not against the rules.
At least two groups of Curry County employees have expressed their support of candidates running in Tuesday’s election through paid ads.
One advertisement was on the second page of CNJ’s Sunday edition. The ad includes the names of employees of the Curry County
Sheriff’s Office, who “wholeheartedly support Wesley Waller for sheriff of Curry County and would appreciate your vote for him.”
Another ad appeared on the CNJ website endorsing Candace Morrison for Curry County assessor. The ad had a note stating it was “paid for by the employees of the Curry County assessor’s office.”
Curry County policy states that “county employees, department heads and county commissioners shall not: a) directly or indirectly coerce, attempt to coerce, command, or advise a state or local officer of employee to pay, lend or contribute anything of value to a party, committee, organization, agency, or person for political purposes, b) Participate in or work on any political election in a county office on county property.”
“It wasn’t my ad, I didn’t have anything to do with running that ad,” said Waller, who is undersheriff for the county. He said he found out about the ad Sunday, when he saw it in the newspaper.
“It was a surprise to me.”
Incumbent Morrison, who was appointed assessor and is hoping to be elected, said she had a hint from the assessor’s office employees about the ad supporting her before it was posted. However, she said, she had nothing to do with its creation.
“(The employees) told me a while back they were going to do something, but I had no knowledge of (the ad),” Morrison said. “They have supported me on their own accord, and on their own time.
“In my eyes, they have not done anything unethical.”
County Commissioner Tim Ashley, who once complained about a similar issue, agreed. In this case, he said, nothing unethical has happened.
Ashley said he once complained that a county employee had used not only her name — but her actual title — in an ad that ran in the CNJ supporting the campaign of someone running for the county commission.
Ashley said he felt it was the use of the title that made that particular act unethical. He said the ads supporting Morrison and Waller were not against Curry County policy, as the employees were not coerced into supporting either candidate.
The ads did not seem unethical, Ashley said, as they did not have employees stating their titles.
“I would not have a conflict (with the ads),” Ashley said. “As long as (the employees) are not using their title, it doesn’t offend me at all.
“Everyone’s got the right to support whoever they want to.”