When running for office, county commissioners can't serve on the county's election board. It's a sensible rule. Although the election board normally consists of the three county commissioners, this creates a conflict of interest when they are also on the ballot. The election board, which handles various matters related to voting, could encounter a situation that impacts a commissioner running for office. It's better to find others to serve temporarily on the election board -- citizens with no such conflicts. But if that's the case, why allow people who are directly employed by the county commissioners to serve on the board? That is the situation this year, where the three-member election board in Lawrence County is composed of three county employees. And all of them serve at the pleasure of the commissioners. County administrator James Gagliano, county maintenance superintendent Frank Piccari and chief assessor Charles Hardester were named to the board this year by Lawrence County President Judge Dominick Motto. That's because all three commissioners, Dan Vogler, Ed Fosnaught and Steve Craig, are seeking re-election. Motto told the New Castle News that he selected these three based on the fact Piccari has served on the board in the past, and because Piccari recommended Gagliano and elections director Marlene Gabriel recommended Hardester. When asked about having three county employees -- who report to the commissioners -- serve on the board, Motto noted it is permitted by law and no one has objected when county employees filled this role in the past. But we have to ask, if it's a conflict for a commissioner to be on this board, why wouldn't it be a conflict for an employee of the commissioners to serve on the board? We note that four years ago, when a similar situation existed, none of the three individuals who served on the election board was a county employee. Legally, Motto is correct in his assessment of who can serve on the election board. But is it not unseemly to have the board composed solely of individuals who work for the county commissioners? Surely in a county of nearly 95,000 people, other possibilities are available. What happens if an issue arises that involves one or more of the commissioners? If the board rules in favor of the commissioners, you can almost count on the losing party to claim favoritism played into the decision. Just because the law allows something does not automatically make it good policy. We hope that when similar circumstances arise in the future, the president judge will cast a broader net for election board candidates.

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