Belliotti drops out race

July 10, 2002|by TARA REILLY

Republican Washington County Commissioner candidate Jenny Belliotti pulled out of the race Tuesday after concerns about whether her service on a volunteer board would conflict with a federal law if elected to public office.

Belliotti, 48, filed to run for commissioner last week.

She said she decided to withdraw now because she wanted to ensure her name was off the ballot by the Sept. 10 primary election.

The deadline to leave a race without the candidate's name appearing on the ballot is Thursday, according to the Washington County Election Board.


Belliotti said she probably wouldn't have an answer from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel by Thursday about whether conditions in the Hatch Act would allow her to serve as a county commissioner.

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.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is an independent federal agency that enforces and provides opinions on the Hatch Act.

Belliotti was recently appointed chairwoman of the Washington County Community Partnership Board. The Community Partnership, created by the state, obtains government grants to fund programs to help children from birth through age 21 and their families. It also helps troubled families find the social services they need.

Belliotti isn't a government employee, but she does work with federal grants through her service on the community partnership board, she said.

Belliotti said she didn't want controversy to cloud the community partnership board if she had been elected a commissioner.

"It's a weight off my chest," Belliotti said. "I want to do the right thing."

Jane McFarland, director of congressional and public affairs for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, said she didn't have enough information to determine whether the Hatch Act would apply to Belliotti.

Washington County Attorney Richard Douglas said he thinks Belliotti made the right choice.

"I think it's really a commendable thing to do," Douglas said. "She did the right thing."

On Monday, Alan Martin was forced to withdraw from the race for Washington County Register of Wills after learning he is violating the Hatch Act. Martin is a clerk at the Hagerstown branch of the U.S. Postal Service.

Last year, Hagerstown City Council candidates John Budesky and Brian E. Coss, who both held government jobs, pulled out of the race because of the Hatch Act.

With Belliotti out of contention, 13 Republicans will duke it out in the primary. Eight Democrats are also running in the primary, for a total of 21 candidates seeking a spot on the five-member Board of County Commissioners.

All five seats are open, with four incumbents running for re-election.

Belliotti said she plans to support the incumbents in the race.

"If all the incumbents get in, we've got a really strong board," she said.

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