Sheriff hopeful said he was told he can’t run for office

Stillwagoner reportedly left off certified list because of job as employee of the state

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Jan 9, 2008 - When the list of local candidates for the March Democratic primary for county offices was turned in and certified Tuesday evening, a sheriff candidate’s name was not among those listed.

Kenny Stillwagoner, who handed in his filing fee to the county Democratic party chair the last day of filing, was not on the list submitted to county officials.

�No I did not get on it,� Stillwagoner said Tuesday evening. �I was forced to withdraw. I work with the state.

"I checked with CPS policy books and the Health and Human Services code," he added. "I found nothing that would prohibit me from filing.”

Stillwagoner said that although he’d researched department and state policy to verify his eligibility for candidacy, he was told by officials at Child Protective Services that he is ineligible to run for a political office because he is employed as a special investigator through the Hunt County CPS office.

He said the program director asked him if he’d field for office, then told him he had a decision to make, citing U.S. Code Title 5, Part II, Chapter 15, Sec. 1502 (a)(3). 

�They told me to resign and run for office, or resign [as a candidate.] ... By the end of they day I had to give them an answer, quit or withdraw by the end of the day. I had to withdraw � that�s my work, income,� Stillwagoner said. �It really upsets me. I really wanted to run.�

The public information officer for the Texas Secretary of State said he was aware of no law that would prohibit a state employee from being a candidate for public office. On a request from the News-Telegram, he said he would research the reference to the  U.S. Code but had not responded to before press time.

The county clerk’s office confirmed the list was turned in and certified without Stillwagoner’s name on it Tuesday.

Stillwagoner said when he contacted Bill Brannon, the Hopkins County Democratic Party chairman cited the Hatch Act for State and Local Employees. Since Brannon had yet to cash Stillwagoner’s check it was returned to him, Stillwagoner said.

According to the U.S. Office of Special Counsels website (http://www.osc.gov/ha_state.htm), “The Hatch Act applies to executive branch state and local employees who are principally employed in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States or a federal agency.”

The U.S. Office of Special Counsels further notes that “An employee’s conduct is also subject to the laws of the state and the regulations of the employing agency. Additionally, employees should be aware that the prohibitions of the Hatch Act are not affected by state or local laws.”

In previous rulings, the USOSC said that social services workers and case workers for Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (Department of Public  Welfare) are subject to the Hatch Act, and prohibited from being a candidate for office in a partisan election. A public welfare worker was told that he couldn’t run for school board because “you perform duties in connection with federally financed programs, and as such, are covered by the provision of the Hatch Act.”

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