A lawsuit filed Tuesday seeks to allow a write-in candidacy for a seat on the Texas County Memorial Hospital board of trustees after a denial from County Clerk Laura Crowley.

The court action was filed by Houston businessman Steve Pierce, who arrived at the county clerk’s office last week at the Texas County Administration Center prepared to declare his candidacy under state statute that required a filing by March 27.

Instead, Crowley denied the request and said she was unable to allow a write-in candidacy under state law.

The potential write-in candidacy came after Crowley denied the candidacy of Gina Umfleet of Licking because she said failed to meet requirements under a state statute. The decision, required under state law,  left George Sholtz of Upton the sole person to remain on the ballot. Sholtz, who filed several unsuccessful lawsuits last year related to the hospital’s creation of a Community Improvement District to fund its surgery center, would serve a five-year term, if elected.

With a single person remaining for the election, Crowley declared a “non-election” and notified Umfleet and the county-owned hospital that she had been disqualified.

In a March 4 letter to Crowley, Pierce’s attorney Brad Eidson of Houston asked her to accept his client’s declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate, citing a state statute: “…if at any election the number of candidates filing for a particular office exceeds the number of positions to be filled at such election, the election authority shall hold the election as scheduled, even if a sufficient number of candidates withdraw from such contest for that office so that the number of candidates remaining after the filing deadline is equal to the number of positions to be filled.”

In the letter, Eidson also noted that no notice had been published in a newspaper by the county clerk, which he said is required under state law, before the declaration of no election. According to the letter to Crowley, Umfleet was removed from the ballot three weeks after the last day of filing. Records shows Umfleet had completed paperwork on the first day allowed, Dec. 17. The deadline to file was Jan. 21.

In ad appearing in the March 5 edition of the Houston Herald, Umfleet asked persons to support her opponent: “I ask that everyone who was supporting me, please give my opponent your cooperation.”

No date has been set for the hearing in Texas County Circuit Court.

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