Supervisors to set vote date for next auditor

Moritz retirement Friday caps 40 years of Democrats at voting helm

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Scott County supervisors will decide this month when voters will have a say in replacing retiring county auditor Roxanna Moritz.

Moritz alerted supervisors March 8 to her retirement Friday. At the supervisors’ April 15 meeting, board chairman Beck acknowledged her three-line retirement letter, and said supervisors would begin planning the succession process.

State law allows county supervisors to name an interim successor from the party of their choice. The interim will serve at most until the 2022 general election. The only requirement for an interim is residency in the county for at least 60 days.

Until an interim is selected, county treasurer Mike Fennelly will oversee auditor functions.

Beck said he’s awaiting guidance from assistant county attorney Rob Cusack.

“It’s not a matter of what you or I or anybody reads. We need our attorney’s opinion,” Beck said Monday. “We know everybody is looking at this.”

Scott County voters have elected Democrats as auditor for the past four decades. Democrat Karen Fitzsimmons succeeded Republican George Oxley in 1977.

Fitzsimmons died in office in 2008, and supervisors appointed Wes Rostenbach until the fall election. Moritz won the 2008 election and was easily re-elected three times, the last time in 2020 with only write-in opposition. Unopposed on the ballot, Moritz garnered 66,507 votes, more than anyone else during Scott County’s best election turnout on record.

Moritz in March said she was nearing retirement, and  set this date because of concerns about legislative and county supervisor decisions that will make the job tougher. Supervisors last year challenged her authority to mail early ballot requests. State legislators this year enacting new felony punishments just for auditors convicted of some new, election-related crimes.

The same bill, sponsored by state Sen. Roby Smith, R-Bettendorf, also affects Scott County auditor transition.

The bill lengthened an interim appointment through the next general election, which will be in November 2022. Previously, Iowa law required voters to fill vacancies at the next election, which would have been this year’s Nov. 2 school and city council ballots.

The law allows voters to petition for a special election. But Smith’s bill set a new, 14-day limit for passing petitions.

State law requires petitions totaling 10 percent of votes cast in the last supervisor election. That record 93,503 voter turnout means 9,350 signatures are needed in the two weeks following the interim appointment.

Deputy auditor Roland Caldwell said that new requirement would be impossible to meet in two weeks.

Iowa law permits supervisors to schedule a quicker special election, as soon as 32 days after the county  officially discloses the vacancy in NSP public notices.

Caldwell said he intends to remain on duty after Moritz and elections deputy Richard Bauer retire this year.

He said auditor staff planned to meet with county treasurer Fennelly this week to go over duties he’ll oversee until an interim is named, or an election scheduled.

Auditor’s duties this year include running municipal and school board elections, as well as implementing redistricting tied to the decennial census.

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