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Judge orders June 2 re-vote in Ward 1

Outcome could have impact on smelter issue

By this time next week, Crystal City could have a new Ward 1 City Council member.

A special election will be held Tuesday, June 2, for Ward 1 voters. The re-election was ordered May 21 by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert G. Wilkins.

The judge ruled in favor of the county election authority Wes Wagner, who asked the court for a new election after his office found irregularities in the April election. Ten people voted in the wrong ward, and Wagner argued that those people were disenfranchised.

Voters registered to vote in Ward 1 prior to May 6 may cast ballots for either Kim Friedmeyer or Eric Downs on Election Day, or before June 2 in the county clerk’s office during regular business hours.

Friedmeyer, who has been an active City Council member since the April election, said she is frustrated.

“There was a mishap, and now we have to do it all over again in less than a week,” she said.

On Tuesday, the city notified Friedmeyer, who won the seat by four votes in April, that her certification was stripped due to the judge’s ruling.

Downs, who has been quiet since the election, said that though he would like to be elected to the seat, it doesn’t matter to him if he wins or loses as long as the voting process is fair.

“This isn’t the ideal way to have an office if I get elected. But as long as everyone’s vote counts and it’s done according to law, then that’s how I would want to see it done,” he said.

This election has a lot riding on it for both sides of the controversial smelter issue. In March, the Crystal City Council voted in favor of granting a conditional use permit for a $1 billion bulk shipping/barge rail facility and pig iron pellet processing plant at the old Pittsburgh Plate Glass site.

The city’s April ballot had four City Council races, and each race had one candidate in favor of the iron ore smelter and one candidate against it. With Friedmeyer seated, the previously divided council had five members in favor of the development.

Though both Downs and Friedmeyer know the weight of the smelter issue, neither wants it to be a deciding factor in the re-election.

“This is about the election and getting on with city business,” Friedmeyer said.

Meanwhile, the Concerned Citizens for Crystal City, or C-4, are stirring up controversy by blaming Crystal City Clerk Debby Johns for the ward mix-up.

In the past, Wagner said that the city omitted two streets from its Ward 1 list, so the election authority didn’t record the voters on those two streets as being in a different ward. The 10 voters lived on those two streets.

The C-4 Web site shows a fax sent from Wagner’s office to Johns’ office dated March 30, 2008, which shows a list of streets in each ward.

The fax also shows that Tina Friedmeyer, the mother-in-law of Ward 1 candidate Kim Friedmeyer and wife of Crystal City street superintendent Dink Friedmeyer, was helping the city clerk determine the proper ward boundaries.

The Web site states: “These are the same people that put a political sign on a gated piece of property that Crystal City secures. This type of behavior simply must stop.”

The leader of the anti-smelter group, Jack Ginnever, said the purpose of the Web site posting is to question why the relative of a candidate was helping the city clerk and the election authority determine if the ward boundaries were correct.

Kim Friedmeyer said her
mother-in-law was involved because she notified Wagner’s office that there were people
voting in Ward 2 who should
have been voting in Ward 1.

For Friedmeyer, the fax could be reason enough for her to appeal the judge’s ruling to hold the Ward 1 election again.

“My question is if they knew this was a problem March 30, why didn’t they do anything about it?” she said. “If the office knew about it and didn’t do anything about it, why am I being punished?”