As expected, Fayette Countys resident circuit judge took action on Thursday afternoon that put Mary Sue Rout into the circuit clerks seat on a temporary basis.
Judge S. Gene Schwarm signed an administrative order to fill the vacancy that was created by the retirement of Marsha Wodtka at the end of the day on Thursday.
Action by Schwarm was required after the Fayette County Board failed to appoint a temporary successor to Wodtka at its July meeting. By law, the county board has 60 days to fill such a vacancy, and county board Chairman Steve Knebel said he plans to present a recommendation to the board at either the August or September board meeting.
Ruot, who has been the chief deputy clerk under Wodtka and worked as a clerk under Wodtka for 26 years, is the Democratic candidate for circuit clerk in the November general election. She is being challenged by Republican Nona Nonie Beckman.
In his administrative order, Schwarm said it was necessary to make an appointment to provide for the continuing operation of the office in order that the business of the court may proceed without unnecessary delay.
Schwarm noted that Wodtka recommended that Ruot be appointed as the temporary circuit clerk and, in his words, that Ruot is intimately familiar with the operations and functions of the office.
Schwarm also noted in his ruling that none of the other clerks in the office were willing to accept an appointment to the post, and that he was taking action after polling other judges in the Fourth Judicial Circuit. Schwarm is the chief judge of the circuit.
In addition to filing the administrative order, Schwarm sent to Knebel a letter explaining the action.
The judge states in that letter that the circuit clerk has three principle duties and responsibilities that are of greatest concern.
Schwarm said that the circuit clerks office receives a large amount of money each day, and that the circuit clerk is the only person bonded to legally handle that money.
He also noted that the circuit clerk is charged with keeping and preserving all papers in court files, including documents related to appeals.
Schwarm also tells Knebel in the letter that someone is needed to supervise the staff of five employees in the office.
By taking this action, Schwarm tells Knebel in the letter, I do not intend to usurp your appointment power granted by statute.
However, I feel that to provide for the continuing efficient operation of the court, it is essential that a person be in place to assume the duties of circuit clerk, he said.
I do encourage you and the board to timely take the appropriate action so that a vacancy does not exist and I am therefore not required to act, Schwarm states in the letter.
In announcing at the July board meeting that he was delaying action on the appointment, Knebel said the Fayette County Democratic Central Committee, like Wodtka, recommended Ruot for the temporary appointment, and that he was waiting for a recommendation for Randy Pollard, chairman of the county Republican Central Committee.
By state law, the person appointed to succeed Wodtka on a temporary basis must be a registered Democrat.