County attorney: Video OK in courthouse

Sharna Johnson

Curry County officials have done nothing wrong in playing an informational video related to Tuesday’s election in the lobby of the courthouse, its attorney said Tuesday.

A petition seeking removal of the video argues it is campaign material promoting approval of a new judicial complex. Such promotion is not permitted within 100 feet of the clerk’s office, where early and absentee voting is conducted, petitioners claim.

Two Clovis men filed the petition on Monday. The video is set on a continuous loop and positioned to the right inside the courthouse’s front entrance

County Attorney Stephen Doerr said the county believes it has acted within the law and the case brought against it is built on a flawed interpretation of the law.

“The video is informational only. It does not tell people to vote yes,” he said.

A similar TV display showcasing the video has been taken down at North Plains Mall near an alternate absentee and early voting location.

“As a customer service to the community, mall management removed the video,” mall Manager Cindy Banister said Tuesday.

The county has placed two bond questions on Tuesday’s general election ballot; one would increase property taxes to pay for construction of a $16.5 million courthouse; the other would raise gross receipts taxes .25 percent, the revenue from which officials have said would be used to build a new jail.

Clovis residents Al Lewis and J.W. Graham filed the petition in district court Monday seeking an injunction to either force the county to remove the video from the courthouse lobby or allow for the posting of a voter information sign with contradictory information.

Doerr said the county has forwarded the petition to its insurer, which will appoint an attorney to represent its interests.

On Tuesday, District Judge David Reeb recused himself from the case and it was reassigned to Judge Teddy Hartley, a court official said.

No hearing has been scheduled.

Lewis and Graham’s attorney, Eric Dixon, said he plans to request all local judges be recused and that an outside judge be selected to hear the case.

If the petition cannot be heard before the election, Dixon said an argument may exist that election results are tainted by the video’s placement near the county clerk’s office.