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Budesky drops out of race

March 08, 2001

Budesky drops out of race



By DAN KULIN

dank@herald-mail.com

The federal Hatch Act has ended another candidacy for Hagerstown City Council.

Democrat John A. Budesky said Thursday he's dropping out of the council race because of the Hatch Act.

The Hatch Act prohibits government employees from being candidates in partisan elections if their jobs are funded with any federal dollars, if they supervise people in federally funded positions, or if they oversee the spending of federal money.

As executive director of the Washington County Community Partnership for Children and Families, Budesky oversees the spending of some federal funds.

Last month, Democrat Brian E. Coss, a state Department of Social Services employee whose position is funded in part with federal money, announced he was withdrawing from the council race because of the Hatch Act.

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It's too late for Coss' and Budesky's names to be taken off Tuesday's primary ballot, but both have said they would refuse the nomination.

The names of nine Democratic council candidates will be on the ballot, including those of Coss and Budesky.

The top five vote-getters move on to the May 15 general election. If one of the top five vote-getters in a party's primary withdraws, then that party's central committee selects a replacement candidate to run in the general election, according to the City Charter.

Before filing as a candidate, Budesky had asked County Attorney Richard Douglas if there was any reason he shouldn't run.

Douglas checked state and local laws, but "I just missed the Hatch Act. He did all that he could," Douglas said.

After hearing Coss was dropping out of the race, Budesky asked Douglas about the Hatch Act.

Douglas asked the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which enforces the Hatch Act, for an opinion on the matter.

An inquiry by the counsel's office determined that a portion of the state money Budesky's department receives comes from the federal government.

"You have duties in connection with activities which are funded in whole or in part by federal grants. Therefore, you are covered by the provisions of the Hatch Act," states a letter from the counsel's office to Budesky.

Budesky said he had three options - quit his job and run for council, withdraw from the election, or do nothing and be in violation of the Hatch Act.

"At this point I'm very committed to the position I work in. ... I would have never put myself in this position had I known this would happen," Budesky said. "I just want to thank all those who supported me."

Other council candidates who work for the government have said the Hatch Act does not apply to them.

Democratic council candidate Steven T. Sager also is awaiting an opinion on his candidacy, but for another reason.

A regional representative in the Division of Neighborhood Revitalization for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, Sager is waiting for an opinion from the State Ethics Commission to determine whether his job creates an unavoidable conflict with the duties of a council member.

He said a ruling from the commission won't come until at least a week after the primary.

Sager said he cleared his candidacy with the State Attorney General's Office.

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