April 16, 2014

Medina
Partly cloudy
41°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.

  • Edward Dodd

    It sounds as if Ms. Fortney is upset that the new clerk is saving the county hundreds of thousands of dollars that she was unable or unwilling to do. If it is “verifiable” as Mr Wadsworth suggests, why didn’t the reporter verify it, seems like that is journalism 101 no??!!

  • buzzards27

    Sounds like it is more of the same from Wadsworth, he ran rough shod over Brunswick now he has gone county wide. He is nothing but a bully. nnEd, the bulk of this “savings” Wadsworth is claiming is a carryover, not a budget savings.nnWe don’t need a clerk of courts who is not interested in knowing how to actually do the job and is maling the clerk’s job his second job.

  • Karmen Sense

    This whole thing about the Clerk of Courts strikes me as a one-way mudslinging contest. I realize that with Obama at the top of the ticket, democrats are having to scramble for anything they can win. But what do we know of Wadsworth’s opponent, other than that she is a lawyer who for some reason wants to become the Clerk of Courts? I can understand a lawyer wanting to give up a well paying career as a lawyer to be a judge, but Clerk of Courts?nWhat’s with that?

  • buzzards27

    Unlike Wadsworth, Maryann Chandler is a member of the bar and understands the importance of the clerk’s office. This article speaks for itself, the former clerk feels Wadsworth is not the right person for the job. Who would know better? She has put party politics aside for the good of the county.nnJust remember signs don’t vote. Wadsworth has been dumping signs everywhere, often without the permission of the landowners.

  • MIKEYSDAD2012

    1. Kudos to Ms. Fortney as we know it was not an easy thing to do as it is rare that someone actually has the courage to say something against someone in their own party. She obviously cares greatly about the office and the people she once led. n2. Someone explain how a $188K carryover is a savings for taxpayers – this is Finance 101.n3. If such an inflammatory letter went out to the employees under the Clerk, why wasn’t a follow-up letter/retraction sent to those same people?n4. Why did the Medina GOP appoint a realtor to replace Fortney when she retired? Nothing against realtors, but clerk of courts does not seem like the next step in the career path of a realtor/salesman.n5. Why, if Wadsworth is learning on the job having absolutely no experience in the legal field would he not be at every meeting, every month, and instead only attend two months and let others go in his stead?