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Sheriff, County Clerk deny Roberts' allegations of election irregularities

PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Dec. 16, 2008) — A visiting circuit judge from Franklin County had been expected to hear a court case on Thursday filed by former sheriff J.T. Roberts seeking a hand-done recount and new election of the Nov. 4 race that he lost by 38 votes to the current sheriff, J.B. King.

However, it’s not clear when Roberts’ court case will be heard. After all local judges decided they couldn’t hear the case due to conflicts of interest, Judge John C. Brackmer was appointed to decide whether a new election or recount should be ordered. Roberts then filed papers objecting to Brackmer and seeking the appointment of a different judge; Brackmer decided on Dec. 11 to withdraw from the case and nothing in the court files on Tuesday afternoon indicated that anyone new had been appointed.

County Clerk Diana Linnenbringer and Sheriff J.B. King filed papers Tuesday responding to Roberts’ allegations that Linnenbringer mishandled the election due to a variety of errors.

As is typical with initial filings of response, the filings by Linnenbringer and King — both of which were produced by the same attorney, a St. Louis lawyer retained by the Missouri Association of Counties, and are nearly identical in many parts — consist mostly of one-sentence paragraphs affirming certain points of fact or denying Roberts’ central allegations without explaining the details of why they believe Roberts is wrong.

However, the attorney for King and Linnenbringer said numerous claims made by Roberts about how elections should be conducted are not factual statements about what the law requires and that “only the Circuit Court is empowered to make determinations as to what the law requires.”

While Roberts’ court papers demanded that his attorney fees and the cost of any recount and new election be paid — which means the county rather than Linnenbringer and King would have to pay, since they were acting in their official capacities as elected county officials — their attorney argued in court documents that “in Missouri, attorney fees are not usually allocable against governmental officials except where a specific statute provides for attorney fees,” citing a 1989 court case.

They also demanded that Roberts pay their own legal fees incurred in their defense.

In the court documents, the attorney for Linnenbringer and King argued that “if the court grants (Roberts) any relief by ordering a recount or a new election” the court should require Roberts to “post a bond pursuant to Section 115.591 (in the Revised Statutes of Missouri) in sufficient amounts to: 1. Pay for the costs and expenses of the election contest; and 2. To secure payment of the costs and expenses of any recount that is required; and/or 3. To secure payment of the costs and expenses of any new election that is ordered.”

King’s filing generally denied detailed knowledge of the alleged irregularities in the ballot counting and election process that form the center of Roberts’ demand for a new election or recount; Linnenbringer’s filing denied that they happened at all. As expected, Linnenbringer and King both denied that the election and voting were conducted improperly.

In nearly identical language in separate court filings, their attorney argued that Roberts “failed to allege any facts or combination of facts in the petition that assert that any alleged irregularities that may have existed, which are not admitted by (Linnenbringer and King) but are specifically denied, are sufficient in magnitude to cast doubt on the validity of the election, as required pursuant to Section 115.593 RSMo. to obtain a new election, and are sufficient in amount to overcome the winning vote margin between (Roberts and King) as required by Section 115.583 RSMo.”

The same claim of insufficient grounds was also made for a recount.

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