Eagle County candidate chooses campaign over job
EAGLE – Forced to choose between her job and her first campaign for public office, Claudia Alexander didn’t hesitate – she’s diving into politics.
Alexander, a Gypsum Republican, announced late last year she would challenge incumbent Eagle County Commissioner Sara Fisher, a Gypsum Democrat. She launched her campaign while working as the manager of the county’s Riverview apartments.
A few weeks ago, she received a letter from Eagle County Attorney Bryan Treu asking her to contact the federal Office of Special Counsel to see if her job at the county put her in violation of the federal Hatch Act.
The letter read, in part: “The Hatch Act is a federal law that mainly prohibits federal, state, and local government employees from candidacy for public office in partisan elections when such employees ‘as a normal and foreseeable incident of their employment perform duties in connection with an activity financed in whole or in part by federal funds.’ If a local employee is covered by the Hatch Act they will need to either 1) resign their position with the local government or 2) withdraw from the partisan election.”
Treu said he’s never had to deal with possible Hatch Act violations before, and was tipped off to the law by a pair of cases out of Moffatt County in which two county employees were barred from running for office by the law.
In one case, an employee of that county’s clerk and recorder’s office was barred from running because she managed a $3,000 federal grant.
“It wasn’t our choice to pursue this,” Treu said. “But the law is there.”
Alexander’s job came under scrutiny because the Riverview apartments are funded in large part by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development. Alexander sent a letter to the feds, and soon received word that her job did put her at odds with the 1939 law. Soon after, her resignation letter had been sent. Her last day on the job is May 7.
Alexander said she’s running to help make changes to the county government she can’t as an employee.
Asked for an example, Alexander said she’d proposed a couple of new programs for the Golden Eagle Senior Apartments, and those projects stalled. In one case, donated money for a telephone alert system is still sitting unused in an Eagle bank account.
“I think county government has gotten so big that we’re not taking care of the little stuff,” she said. “Things shouldn’t get stalled.”
Alexander said she’s eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, so she’s able to leave her job for a full-time campaign. And, she said, she has a lot of homework to do.
She said she has a copy of the county’s comprehensive budget book, and plans to delve deeply into it once her time is her own. And, while she believes the county needs to spend less money, and spend it more effectively, she said a deep look at the budget book will enable her to give specific answers about what she’d do differently if she had a vote on how the county uses taxpayer money.
“I know that any of the hundreds of employees I’ve managed over the years will tell you how I budget,” she said. “I tell you, ‘This is your budget, and if you get to the end of zero before the end of the month, you’d better have a really good reason.'”
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.