December 18, 2014

Medina
Cloudy
32°F
 

Predecessor slams clerk of courts

Medina County Clerk of Courts David Wadsworth’s harshest critic isn’t the Democrat challenging him in next month’s election.

It’s Kathy Fortney, the Republican he was appointed to replace.

“I wish now I never left office,” said Fortney, who served nearly 20 years as clerk, stepping down in 2010.

“Mr. Wadsworth doesn’t understand the office, and has not taken the time to understand the office,” she said. “His political ambitions seem to override what this county needs.”

Fortney said she became concerned the clerk’s office was being politicized when she learned employees had been sent letters last year asking them to help campaign for Wadsworth’s re-election.

“There are good people in that office and they are not to be involved in the election,” she said. “My previous boss, Jean Waters, is probably rolling over in her grave.”

Before becoming clerk in 1991, Fortney worked for 23 years under Waters, who served as Medina County clerk of courts for 22 years.

Wadsworth has apologized for the letter, which he said was sent by a campaign volunteer without his knowledge.

“That whole letter thing was 21 months ago. It’s not me who’s politicizing the office,” Wadsworth said. “It’s whoever is using that story for political gain.”

The letter was raised as a campaign issue in August by Maryann Chandler, his Democratic opponent in the Nov. 6 election. Chandler, a local attorney, said the letter needed to be publicized to dispel rumors that she intended to gut the clerk’s staff, if elected.

Fortney said she also was upset that Wadsworth was boasting of a $200,000 savings in his office since taking over in January 2011.

“There’s no way in hell you can save $200,000,” she said. “I’ve looked at the budget and it’s not there. It’s a smokescreen.”

Wadsworth said the savings consisted of a $188,000 carryover at the end of last year and $12,000 in cutbacks to this year’s budget.

He said the county saved money by switching to a bank with smaller fees, changing its check verification procedures and conducting a review of its purchasing procedures.

“It’s a variety of little things that added up,” Wadsworth said. “The bottom line is they’re all verifiable.”

Fortney said she tried to talk to Wadsworth about her concerns, but said he didn’t seem to understand.

In the last few weeks, she has been speaking openly, she said.

“I’m a Republican and he’s a Republican, but that doesn’t matter when you get into office,” she said. “You are there to learn your job and serve the public with honesty and integrity.”

Wadsworth said he has tried to include Fortney in office events following her retirement. He said she declined, saying she wanted to stay out of the local political scene.

Wadsworth said he was surprised Fortney would speak out against him publicly.

“She told me she was retired and staying out of politics, so I respected her wishes,” he said. “It’s very disappointing.”

Fortney said she intended to leave politics behind her, but that became difficult because people have come to her upset about Wadsworth.

“I never thought people would approach me in such a negative manner about the person who took my place not measuring up to the quality of what the people need,” she said.

Wadsworth was selected to succeed Fortney by a vote of the county’s Republican Central Committee. He was one of four candidates vying for the job.

The central committee’s first vote did not produce the required 50-percent-plus-one majority, said Bill Heck, who was the party chairman at the time. Wadsworth won after a series of votes.

Contact Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.