According to Bradley County Attorney Joseph Byrd, County Mayor D. Gary Davis created a policy requiring a leave of absence six years ago when former Bradley County Human Resources Assistant Michael Willis ran for a paid political office.
The November 2004 instruction was written as a guideline by Davis to encourage department heads and members of his staff to participate freely in the political process consistent with all applicable laws and regulations.
Byrd said the policy was developed at that time to curb the disruption created in the mayor’s office. He said Howell is running for a volunteer leadership role in his political party.
“Accordingly, the policy does not directly apply in this case,” Byrd said. “If Mr. Howell's campaigning activities were to interfere with the day to day activities of his work, the county mayor always has the prerogative to require a leave of absence with or without a policy. It should be noted that any policy issued by the mayor can be amended at his discretion as the executive.”
Howell said the executive committee is an unpaid volunteer post within the Republican Party.
“This is not an elected executive office voted on by the general public, but only by those choosing a Republican ballot,” he said.
He said his role as the mayor’s executive assistant is not in connection with programs, loans or grants made by the United States or a federal agency.
“I do not administer any programs funded by federal funds. Therefore I understand that the Hatch Act does not apply to my candidacy for a volunteer position within a political party,” Howell said. “Based upon these guidelines I see no reason to take a leave of absence from my job with county government. I will also point out that none of the other candidates who are currently employed by county government and are on the August ballot, have been asked to do so."
Byrd distributed a memorandum in December outlining some general guidelines concerning the Hatch Act. He said Friday he is not aware of any county employees running for elected office who are in violation of the federal law.