It became clear that Davidson County Election Administrator Albert Tieche was on the defense when he hired a personal attorney to help him respond to a scathing state review last month.
During the most recent meeting of the Davidson County Election Commission — the five-member body that hires and fires the election administrator — Tieche spent the better part of five hours disputing nearly every piece of state Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins’ report on the commission, which he said seemed written “to be personal in nature.”
During what was at times a heated interrogation from his bosses, Tieche looked like a man trying to return punches from his heels. He and his attorney, Art McClellan, eventually decided not to submit their response to the state report, leaving a shorter, milder response crafted by the Metro Department of Law as the commission’s official comment to the state.
Nearly a week after the marathon meeting, Tieche essentially confirmed that his job is indeed on the line.
He told The City Paper that the commission will likely address his future at a meeting this coming week. Asked if he had a sense of what his fate might be, he said only that it was a question for the five commissioners. But he did take the chance to offer a self-assessment.
“When I look back, I’m pretty satisfied with my performance under a difficult set of circumstances,” he said.
Tieche listed a number of hurdles that he feels his office cleared successfully: Two sets of countywide redistricting; the referendum in Lakewood, which resulted in the city’s dissolution; Metro Council and mayoral elections; training workers on the state’s new photo ID law; and what he called three successful elections in 2012.
Of course, if that assessment weren’t debatable, Tieche wouldn’t be in this position. The Lakewood referendum, for instance, had to be done twice, after the initial vote contained irregularities and prompted a lawsuit from the city of Lakewood that led to the redo. While Tieche has repeatedly pointed out that none of the results from three major elections in 2012 have been contested, the execution of those elections has been a source of controversy for months. Tieche conceded to The City Paper that there were “some gaps” between perfection and performance, but maintained that he’s done well.
“So, when I look in the mirror, I’m satisfied with my performance under a pretty difficult set of circumstances,” he said. “Like most people, I know when I’ve done a good job, I know when I haven’t. I’ve done a good job on this, and I’m happy with that. The man in the mirror is happy with what I’ve done.”
There are three possible paths for a Tieche exit. Goins could decertify him when the state releases the final version of its report this month, if Tieche makes it that long. The commission, of course, could fire him. To avoid all that, he could resign, but he said he’s not planning on leaving through that door.
“If I thought I had done something wrong,” he said. “If I thought there had been any malfeasance discovered in the office, I might consider that. But why would I do that if I haven’t done anything wrong? Why would one do that because of occasional human errors? Those happen in all elections in all locations.”
For their part, the commissioners seem intent on sticking to a renewed goal to stay out of the media. It’s no secret that the group — which includes four new members — have been strongly encouraged to neither attract, nor engage, media attention if possible.
Commissioner Tricia Herzfeld declined to comment on Tieche’s future job status, and her fellow Democrat, A.J. Starling, told The City Paper he hadn’t yet made up his mind about the matter. None of the three Republican commissioners — Chairman Ron Buchanan, Jennifer Lawson and Jim Gotto — responded to requests for comment by press time.