Perry County may be a deeply rural, tranquil place with one traffic light, but it is Ground Zero for the latest battle over your constitutional gun rights.
The results of this battle have enormous implications for all Pennsylvanians, irrespective of where they live, because any legal holding will eventually apply not just to one county, but all counties and all citizens.
Unquestionably acting on political goals, the three county auditors recently sued the county sheriff, Carl Nace, demanding that he provide the names and addresses of concealed carry permit applicants his office processes. Nace refused, citing state law which seems crystal clear on the subject.
A hearing was held Sept. 2 in New Bloomfield, Perry County’s seat of local government. It was intended to give both parties an opportunity to argue their case before a judge. The three county auditors are the plaintiff, and Sheriff Nace is the defendant.
Attorney Joshua Prince represented Nace, and attorney Craig Staudenmaier represented the three county auditors. The auditors were not present, neither at the court house, nor at the hearing. Nace sat with his attorney in the court room.
Judge Zanic boiled down the entire argument to two points, one in each set of motions filed by each party. Zanic appeared most curious and skeptical about attorney Staudenmaier’s assertions and claims about the need for conceal carry information, and the deficiency he says the county audit suffers from without the applicants’ names and addresses. More questions were asked of Staudenmaier than of Prince, and those questions for Staudenmaier were more pointed than those posed by the judge to Prince.
The judge was clearly having trouble understanding the plaintiff’s demand, or the need for the demand in the first place.
Citing general auditing standards, Judge Zanic referred to his own experience as a professional and as a former district attorney. Zanic disagreed with Staudenmaier about the necessary information needed for any audit – let alone a county audit that was successfully completed by an outside firm – when the county auditors failed to do their own.
Channels 43 and 27 were there, as was the Patriot News. Kudos to reporter ABC 27 Dennis Owens for pointing out that the auditors were not present at their own hearing, which is unnecessarily costing the county taxpayers a lot of money. Their absence raises questions about just how seriously they take all this mess they have created.
Uniformed sheriffs and deputies from at least 15 counties were in attendance, in support of Sheriff Nace. The court room was about 85 percent full.
“I hope to have a decision for you very soon,” said Judge Zanic.
Here is my take-away:
1) A person can draw their own conclusions about the quality or necessity of elected officials who take taxpayer money, who initiate unnecessary and expensive litigation, and who then do not show up in public or even at their own hearing. You cannot kick the hornet’s nest without getting stung, and then complain about it, but that is what these three auditors are doing. What they have said, and what their spokesman attorney Staudenmaier has said is that these three feel unhappy about the negative reactions their citizens have had over this lawsuit. Some counties do not have auditors, and it seems that the three in Perry County have proven they are either unfit or not needed. Perry County should consider eliminating the office of county auditor.
2) Perry County should do everything it can to determine who is behind the auditors’ lawsuit, including determining who paid Staudenmaier. This should be done to determine the political forces in play (CeaseFirePA? Bloomberg? Soros? The Democratic Party of Pennsylvania? A local elected official?), and why they are present, and also let’s see if the people who started this expensive mess can then be held accountable and pay for it out of their own pocket.
3) Perry County should prepare to recover any costs or legal fees associated with this lawsuit, whether from the three auditors or from someone else who may be accountable. I think that Joshua Prince is representing Sheriff Nace for free, but no one should have to spend time defending someone from a frivolous lawsuit at their sole expense.