Bunker, who was recently elected Mayor of Lakeland and has tendered his resignation from the Commission, effective January 3, said he had been encouraged to take the step by numerous Republican public officials and other prominent members of the GOP.
“This is long overdue, and it needed to come from the Republican side,” Bunker said. The oft-beleaguered Holden is a Republican who was appointed administrator by the GOP-dominated Shelby County Election Commission in 2009.
Bunker said he anticipated that a majority of his fellow Commissioners, both Democrats and Republicans, would support his resolution. He acknowledged that some Republicans considered calls for Holden’s resignation to be the result of partisan Democratic pressure, but he said his own opinion, augmented by increasing dissatisfaction with Holden in GOP ranks, was that the administrator had to be held accountable for failure to stem a tide of election glitches that have occurred on his watch.
“If people were demanding that something be done after only six months or so on the job, you could say that was premature, that he should be given a chance, but he’s been there for five years, and the evidence is that he’s either unwilling or unable to do the job,” Bunker said.
The resolution of “No confidence” will be introduced in the Commission’s General Government committee on Wednesday, Bunker said, and will be accompanied by supporting documentation from both local and official state sources, including reprimands of the SCEC and its administrative arm by state Election Coordinator Mark Goins.
Among the instances enumerated are the Election Day glitch of August 2010 which resulted in hundreds of voters being incorrectly turned away as they arrived to vote; a failure in 2012 to provide correct ballots for local elections that jibed with post-census redistricting, resulting in a judicial invalidation of a Shelby County School Board race; a lack of responsiveness to public inquiries and an inefficient management of staff; and a recent audit report pinpointing improper cash management and a variety of other errors of commission or omission..
Bunker said another factor was Holden’s failure to respond with appropriate corrective action after being put on probation by the five-member local Election Commission, consisting of three Republicans and two Democrats.
“The facts are overwhelming, and all he’s responded with are excuses,” said Bunker, who acknowledged that only the Election Commission itself could force an administrative change. He was asked to respond to an emailed allegation by SCEC Commissioner Dee Nollner, who termed the charges against Holden to be the result of “a planted, connived, sabotage effort by a disgruntled employee.”
Nollner said, “Mr. Bunker should be ashamed of himself for attacking anyone based on such one-sided "information" and to do so to a fellow Republican brings the question, why? Was the AOE [Administrator of Elections] competent to conduct the Lakeland election in which Mr. Bunker was elected mayor, but incompetent on other issues?”
Bunker said he intended to talk with Nollner but said, “Evidently she’s drunk the Kool-Aid.” He said what was at stake was public confidence in the integrity of elections.
It is no secret that various names have been discussed in local Republican ranks as possible successors to Holden. They include Steve Summerall, a former chief administrator for the Shelby County Commission; former SCEC chairman Bill Giannini, now an assistant to Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie McPeak; and current Shelby County Commissioner Chris Thomas. Ironically, Bunker has made it clear he would like Thomas to formally apply for the job of Lakeland city manager.