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Sherbet Forced Out: " I'm Hurt Because I Love Dallas County"

By BJ Austin & Shelley Kofler, KERA News

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kera/local-kera-948427.mp3

Dallas, TX – Dallas County Election Supervisor Bruce Sherbet confirms he'll reluctantly resign today after 24 years in his job. Sherbet told KERA's Shelley Kofler that County Judge Clay Jenkins and fellow democratic commissioner John Wiley Price were quietly planning to replace him.

Sherbet: I do want to make it clear, I wasn't wanting to leave. But it was made very obvious to me I wasn't wanted to continue in this position by some people important in my job.

We'll hear more of Shelley's conversation with Sherbet but first BJ Austin says rumors began circulating Monday that top county democrats wanted their own person in the job. That's when County Judge Jenkins scheduled a meeting of an obscure elections body for the first time in 27 years.

BJ Austin:

Recently sworn-in Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins leads a new democratic majority on the commissioners court. This week he called a meeting of the dormant county elections commission. Jenkins, the tax assessor, the county clerk and the county Republican and Democratic Party chairs are on it.

Republican party Chairman Jonathan Neerman blames Sherbet's departure on partisan politics.

Neerman: The fear was that the democrats would make some wholesale changes in some of our longtime leaders in Dallas County and they've started curiously with Bruce Sherbet who is an independent elections administrator.

Neerman says Sherbet is a nationally respected elections administrator who has done an excellent, impartial job.

County Judge Clay Jenkins says he called the elections commission meeting because it's supposed to meet and review overall performance every two years but has not.

Jenkins: It's all of our jobs in government to make sure that the elections are fair and accurate and that's extremely important. And I will do everything I can to make sure that every eligible voter, regardless of their ideology, party or preference is able to vote and that vote's accurately counted.

Judge Jenkins declined to say if he believes elections have not been fair and accurate under Sherbet's tenure, calling it a personnel matter now that Sherbet is resigning.

The judge says he intends to call election commission meetings after each election to review performance and be a watchdog for fair and accurate elections. Jenkins says the commissioner will meet Friday for the first time in years.

Shelley Kofler:

This is Shelley Kofler:

Sherbet: I'm a little shocked and not understanding why I'm in this situation right now.

Elections Supervisor Bruce Sherbet says a surreal series of events began to unfold Monday when he was asked why Dallas County Elections Commission was planning to meet for the first time in decades.

Sherbet: I have the county judge call a meeting for Friday of an elections commission that their only purpose is to hire and fire the elections administrator. The last time they met was in 87 when they hired me. Sherbet was confused. He says there'd been no altercation with county officials. Officials hadn't complained about his work. Sherbet has, in fact, been honored often by his peers and is a past president of the Texas Association of Election Administrators.

On Wednesday Sherbet says he went to see County Commissioner John Wiley Price who he's known for 30 years. Sherbet says he asked if there was a problem, if he had Commissioner Price's support. Sherbet says the reception was cool.

Sherbet: I have probably the most powerful person in the county, Commissioner Price, tell me that he more or less thought it was time to move on. I didn't get a reason other than I've been with the county for a long time and there would be other opportunities for me. I'm hurt because I love Dallas County. I was born and raised here, went to school here. I've had one real job all my life and that's been Dallas County. I'm 54 years old. I've worked 35 years of my life for this county.

Sherbet says he's tried to treat republicans and democrats equally and fairly when there have been election disputes. He's says he's decided to resign because he couldn't be effective without the support of Jenkins and Price even if he survived the Friday commission meeting.

Sherbet: I hope friends think I've done a good job because, I'll tell you, I loved it and I wouldn't change a thing.

We tried but couldn't reach Commissioner Price for his comments.