A Republican Lancaster County row officer invited the GOP’s nominee for her position to take part in hiring decisions before being elected, a move the Democratic county commissioner denounced as inappropriate.
Prothonotary Katherine Wood-Jacobs’ disclosure raised questions about political favoritism this week. Wood-Jacobs is a veteran of party politics and serves as chair of the GOP’s Pequea Valley committee.
In an interview, she said the invitation to her party’s nominee and not the other’s was not intentional. She said she did not have time to call the Democratic candidate.
“I would also reach out to the other person to make the same offer,” she said. “It wasn’t like I was playing party favorites. I just hadn’t had the same chance.”
Wood-Jacobs is completing her second four-year term in the elected position, which is responsible for the recording and filing of legal documents in civil court. The position pays $86,527 a year.
At a meeting on Monday, Wood-Jacobs told salary board members — who include the three commissioners — that she had invited Republican prothonotary nominee Andrew Spade to sit in on interviews for a new clerk position.
Spade is running against Democrat Daniel Phillips in the Nov. 5 election. Republican candidates dominate races for countywide office given the GOP’s voter-registration edge here.
“I talked to, hopefully, our next prothonotary Andy Spade about this and asked him if he would be OK with, when I start getting applications and interview people, whittling down hopefully the numerous amount of applications I receive. Would he be interested in coming to the office and meeting with the person as well?" Wood-Jacobs said. “Because this will spill over into his term.”
Craig Lehman, the lone Democrat on the three-member board of county commissioners, objected. “You said you were consulting with one candidate now, which is completely inappropriate,” he said.
Lehman voted in favor of creating the new clerk position only after Wood-Jacobs agreed not to communicate with either candidate until after the election.
The board voted 3-2 in favor of creating the position. Republican county Commissioner Dennis Stuckey joined Lehman and Wood-Jacobs in voting for it; Republican county Commissioner Josh Parsons and Controller Brian Hurter voted against it.
Spade acknowledged Wood-Jacobs called him shortly before the meeting. Phillips said Wood-Jacobs’ invitation to his political rival was in poor taste.
“I might be old fashioned, but I think you have to win the election to take over the office of prothonotary or discharge any of its duties, or any elected office in this country,” Phillips said. “I think America has elections, rather than coronations, for a reason, and perhaps some people need reminded of it. It’s a shame this has happened and had I been asked, I couldn’t in good faith have accepted.”