Lancaster County Sheriff Mark Reese resigned Friday after a lengthy battle to remove him from office. Reese tendered his resignation “without any admission of wrongdoing.” Prior to a judge freezing his salary payments last month, Reese, an elected official, had been paid almost $94,000 in salary and benefits since going on leave in July 2016, according to county records. As LNP reported, at a hearing last week, Reese admitted sending several pornographic emails to a deputy sheriff.
Whether Mark Reese finally had an attack of conscience or whether he had simply run out of energy to continue fighting, we’ll probably never know.
We do know that his resignation was about a year overdue.
And we’re glad he’s finally gone.
Republican County Commissioner Josh Parsons told LNP that he’s happy to finally “put this ridiculous situation behind us.”
Parsons certainly found the right adjective. This drama has indeed been ridiculous in more ways than we can count. But let’s tally a few.
Reese, a Republican, goes on voluntary leave July 2016 after Deputy Sheriff Jessica Padilla alleges he sexually harassed her. Padilla said the harassment was “severe and pervasive.” According to the county commissioners, Reese admitted to writing emails to the deputy sheriff that were so obscene LNP couldn’t print them.
But as the weeks and months drag on, Reese continues to receive a county paycheck, as calls for him to resign grow louder and louder. Reese refuses to leave.
You can say whatever you want about the former sheriff, but he certainly doesn’t have rabbit ears. He seems impervious to any sort of public shame or embarrassment.
The county commissioners, despite wanting Reese to fade quietly into the mist, have no legal standing to remove him from office.
State Rep. Bryan Cutler, a Republican, begins the impeachment process.
State Sens. Ryan Aument and Scott Martin, also Republicans, file suit to forcefully remove Reese.
Then, July 6, Judge John D. Kuhn freezes payments to Reese pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
On July 14, Reese tells a county official that he plans to show up at the sheriff’s office July 19 to “confirm everything is running smoothly.”
We were willing to save Reese the trip and reassure him that everything is running just fine without him anywhere near his office.
Keep in mind, of course, that Reese’s accuser still works there, and she was wondering if she might have to change her schedule to accommodate the sudden presence of the boss who allegedly harassed her. Her lawyer said, “She was very, very scared to go to work.”
Forget about all other energy sources. Reese’s chutzpah could fuel the county for a year.
Finally, with the county spigot turned off, and the judge preparing to rule on whether the sheriff could return to his office at the courthouse, Reese quits.
Meanwhile, the harassment suit against Reese is still active.
Reese wasted the money of taxpayers, the time of state legislators who — as you probably know if you read the newspaper — could be attending to much more important matters. He singlehandedly wasted county and state resources.
For waiting until now to raise the white flag, Reese gets no honorable mention here.
“I am angry that so much time, effort and taxpayer money had to go into this. I hope that the sheriff’s office can now begin to put this behind them and fully get back to the business of serving and protecting the citizens of Lancaster County without further distractions,” Parsons told LNP.
We do appreciate the efforts of Sens. Aument and Martin, and Rep. Cutler, for refusing to take Reese’s defiant “no” for an answer. Aument and Martin could have waited to see how the impeachment process played out — while Reese continued to get paid — but they forced the issue. They filed suit on the grounds that the sheriff had vacated his office, and they therefore had a constitutional obligation to fill his role.
It was the senators’ second attempt to get rid of Reese. In January, as LNP reported, they introduced a resolution in the state Senate for his “direct removal” — a legislative move not used successfully since the late 19th century.
Clearly, the senators were willing to try any sort of legislative or legal alchemy to get Reese out of office.
We’re relieved that something finally worked.
There might even be reason to celebrate had all of this — thanks to Reese and Reese alone — not been so unnecessary.