Thorny issue

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Cape Girardeau County Commission has been trying to deal with a thorny issue: the alleged abuse of a county computer-use policy involving an elected county official. According to various sources, including Auditor David Ludwig's attorney, the commission asked Ludwig to resign last month after the official downloaded what has been described as "inappropriate" photographs from an Internet site and left them in a printer in the auditor's office. The photographs were subsequently found by office employees.

County courthouse sources say this was not the first time this had happened, and Ludwig was asked to sign a document last year promising not to download inappropriate photos and saying he would resign if it happened again. Ludwig said in a closed meeting last month with commissioners and Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle that he did not want to resign. He has been on sick leave since that meeting.

While the issues raised by all of this are of concern to county commissioners, under Missouri law this matter should have been handled by the judicial system rather than as an administrative matter. The county commission does not have the authority to remove another elected county official. And the meetings regarding this situation should have been held -- if at all -- in open sessions, not closed ones.

Any county official who thinks the auditor's actions rise to the level of a crime and warrant his removal from office should take appropriate legal steps, and that does not include closed-door meetings.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: