Chief Circuit Judge dismisses second suit in alcohol referendum

CHIPLEY – Chief Circuit Judge Christopher Patterson has dismissed the second and final complaint filed last week by Ted Spangenberg, Jr. in an effort to halt the election on the county’s wet/dry referendum.

The first suit naming Supervisor of Elections Carol Finch Rudd was dismissed Thursday.

The second suit, which named the Washington County Board of County Commissioners and each commissioner in their individual capacities, was dismissed Friday morning, just hours before the vote on the sale of alcohol in Washington County was set to close.

As in the first case, Judge Patterson’s ruling found Spangenberg did not have the required legal standing to bring the suit, which challenged the legality of the election based on the petitions being presented to the Board of County Commissioners 159 days after their certification, rather than within the 120-day time frame required by law.

Spangenberg says while he respects the judge’s decision, he believes it is a sign that change is needed within the court system.

“It is clear to me that our system of laws dealing with who can hold a government body like a county commission accountable is in desperate need of repair,” said Spangenberg. “When an individual has no way to hold a county commission accountable to obeying the law just because they are not ‘uniquely harmed,’ that is an issue. If all the citizens have the same harm due to the abandonment of the rule of law as was in this case with the petition validation, then who is able to hold [the government] accountable? There doesn’t seem to be anybody who has that availably to challenge the county commissioners’ violation of the law, at least no citizen. And it is the citizens who are governed by the county commission and the citizens they are supposed to serve.”

As of noon Friday, 4,771 ballots had been returned to the Supervisor of Elections Office, representing 28.49 percent of the county’s 16,747 eligible voters. Of that number, 4,734 votes have been tabulated.

The canvassing board will meet again at 5:45 p.m. and remain until after the election closes at 7 p.m.