It’s a win for citizens and taxpayers
Over a year ago, sharp-eyed researchers from the Tea Party in Northern Kentucky raised serious questions about the continued need for the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission (NKAPC). This zoning and planning commission appears redundant in the one remaining county it now serves and there are even questions about the legality of its continuing operation as a separate, taxing agency.
Based on what it found, the Tea Party launched an effort in accordance with state law to place a voter recall item of the NKAPC on the Kenton County election ballot.
The Tea Party along with Northern Kentucky area contractors, who also felt the NKAPC had outlived its usefulness, began collecting the thousands of signatures needed – more than 19,000 Kenton County residents needed to sign – to place the recall on the ballot.
Collection of so many signatures, one quarter of all the votes cast in the last presidential election, was a daunting task. So the contractors brought in a commercial canvassing firm, AZ Petition Partners, to help.
Collection was made more difficult when several signature collectors reportedly were harassed by local law enforcement at the instigation of the Kenton County Attorney, Gary Edmonson.
Despite the challenges, Kenton County Clerk Gabrielle Summe was eventually presented with over 24,000 signatures from citizens requesting an NKAPC recall item on the next ballot. It looked like significant signature overkill, but never count out politics.
Clerk Summe eventually ruled thousands of the signatures were invalid, so many that too few valid ones remained to place the issue on the ballot. That triggered a lawsuit from the outraged Tea Party, which is still in court over this extremely contentious clerk action.
However, that wasn’t all the legal activity involved. A second lawsuit was also filed. This one was filed by Kenton County Attorney Gary Edmondson. He charged the Petition Partners firm and independent contractors who supported it with racketeering under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for collecting fraudulent signatures. Although only the commercial firm and its contractors were named in the suit, many Tea Party members also felt threatened. After all, if the commercial firm were found guilty, might Edmondson then place Tea Partiers to his litigious sights?
On August 22, 2012, US District Judge David L. Bunning of the US District Court in Covington rendered his verdict. He found in favor of Petition Partners. The Edmondson suit was dismissed with prejudice, which may block Edmonson from bringing the same lawsuit against Petition Partners again.