Matt Shirk, current treasurer for the Lebanon County Republican Committee, announced his candidacy for one of the three Lebanon County Commissioner seats that will be contested next fall.
Shirk will face incumbents Bill Ames and Bob Phillips in the primary election to be held May 21, 2019. Two candidates from each party will be advanced to the fall general election.
In the press release announcing his campaign, Shirk alleged nepotism by Ames, claiming that Ames had appointed or pushed the Republican party to elect “his entire family to County positions” while also “voting for taxpayer funded salary increases to benefit them.”
Pressed for details on what he alleged was “blatant nepotism”, Shirk clarified, “I am certainly not questioning the qualifications of these individuals, but an elected public official needs to consider the conflict-of-interests associated with his immediate family holding such powerful County positions; I’m positive that our county has plenty of qualified candidates to hold these seats, where there would be no COI: real or perceived.”
Shirk cited a few incidents that made him perceive this conflict of interest, namely the controversial run by Ames’ step-son Doug Cheyney for Register of Wills.
Shirk also alleged perceived conflict of interest in the hiring of Doug Cheyney’s wife, Julia Cheney, as director of the Lebanon County Planning Department, a hiring process from which Ames had recused himself as reported in the Lebanon Daily News at the time.
Ironic given Shirk’s accusations, Doug Cheyney’s own campaign for Register of Wills ended in him claiming orchestration by the father-son duo of GOP Committee Chairman Casey Long and his dad, an earlier occupant of the position. (For what it’s worth, Casey Long was quoted as saying, “I think the committee was making a statement they didn’t need any additional members of the Ames family working for the county.”)
In a press conference on Thursday formally announcing his re-election bid, Ames responded to the nepotism allegations.
“I know nepotism exists but I’m going to tell you it doesn’t exist in Lebanon County as far as the Ames are concerned, with respect to Lebanon County positions.”
The Ames campaign posted video of the event to Facebook.
“Julie is a great employee and she’s respected by people across the community who tell me what a good job she’s done,” said Ames. “I have an opponent, if you haven’t noticed, and it looks like that’s his entire campaign, that somehow I rigged the system.”
Ames was joined at the podium by State Senator Mike Folmer (R-Senate District 48), State Representative Frank Ryan (R-101), and State Representative Russ Diamond (R-102).
Ames first announced his re-election campaign earlier this month. Bob Phillips (R) has also announced his re-election campaign, with Jo Ellen Litz being the only sitting commissioner who has not yet launched a public reelection bid.
The three candidates in the fall who receive the highest number of votes are named Commissioners. This results in the election of two majorities and one minority party Commissioner since no voter may vote for more than two candidates in the general election.