The Rutherford County Election Commission picked MTSU Associate Athletic Director Alan Farley as its administrator of elections in a 4-1 vote Monday, July 28 despite one member’s contention that he left the commission in 2002 under a cloud of Republican discontent.
During candidate interviews, Election Commissioner Felicia Hix, a Republican, said the Rutherford County Republican Party Executive Committee voted to call for Farley’s resignation from the Election Commission for “dereliction of duty and absenteeism” because he was absent from the Aug. 1, 2002 election. He served on the commission from 1993 to 2002, stepping down in September that year.
Hix asked Farley why this commission should hire him in light of the GOP committee’s vote 12 years ago.
Farley responded that he was not aware of such a vote by the executive committee. After Monday’s meeting, he said that was the first he’d heard those allegations and added that the only time he would have missed an election would have been for work.
Commission Chairman Ransom Jones, also a Republican, said Hix’s statement had no impact on his vote for Farley. Jones made it clear before and after the vote he felt Farley was “uniquely qualified” for the job because of his Election Commission experience. He noted that Farley should have no trouble getting certified for the position.
“The critics, their motives are not pure, and they have their own candidate and agenda,” he said, though he declined to identify that candidate.
Election Commission Chairman Johnny Taylor, a Democrat and former chairman for 22 years, voted to appoint Farley, along with Democrat Carolyn Peebles, Jones and Republican David Edwards. Hix was the only one in opposition.
“The Republican Party’s business is not my business,” Taylor said when asked about Hix’s allegations.
A party’s executive committee can only make recommendations for Election Commission appointments. The decision goes through state legislators and ultimately the party’s state leaders.
The commission’s selection of Farley came after it voted in early July to fire three-year Administrator of Elections Nicole Lester for not working enough hours, failing to keep regular hours and displaying poor leadership that led to low office morale.
Although Chairman Jones previously said he wanted to hire someone before the Aug. 7 county election, Commissioner Taylor said he felt it best that interim administrator Rhonda McFerrin run that election with Farley observing, since early voting is under way.
Lester’s father, Hiram Lester, said after the meeting that Farley’s selection was no surprise.
“Everybody knew what was going to happen before they went in there,” he said.
In fact, the night Nicole Lester was fired, she mentioned in the meeting that Farley or state Rep. Joe Carr were likely candidates to replace her.
Phil Griffin of Griffin Strategies, who has kept up with the controversy swirling around the administrator’s position, said that while Farley’s appointment might have been predictable, he felt the commission conducted a fair process and that Farley made a good presentation.
“He mentioned specific apps and technology he wanted in the office, and I look forward to working with him,” Griffin said.
During the interview, Farley said it is crucial to start using technology such as computer applications to provide information and engage the younger generation in the voting process to improve election turnouts.
When asked recently why he stepped down from the Election Commission in 2002, Farley said he left the position because he felt the Republican Party was trying to get too involved.
“For years, the commission worked together for the betterment of the electoral process,” he said. “It got to the point folks were wanting to dictate my vote. I didn’t like it so I stepped aside.”
During Monday’s interview, Farley told commissioners he believes the electoral process and the political process should remain separate.
Others interviewed were Circuit Court Clerk Laura Bohling, County Commissioner Brad Turner, County Commissioner Steve Sandlin, former defense contractor Jay Womack, National Guard Col. Charles Tilton and Sheriff’s Maj. Tommy Thompson.