Herschel Young, the newly elected presiding commissioner of Cass County, didn’t exactly get a warm welcome his first full day on the job Monday.
The prosecuting attorney filed a lawsuit to have him removed from office.
The petition filed by Prosecutor Teresa Hensley argues that because of a felony conviction, Young was not a qualified candidate when he won election to the office in November.
Young, a Republican, said the lawsuit is politically motivated and unfair to voters who elected him. He acknowledges the 1995 conviction but says the rap is rather benign compared with other officeholders.
“There’s guys in office who committed IRS fraud and embezzlement — all I did was slap a guy because he spit on my wife,” Young said.
For that, he pleaded guilty to felony assault, was given a suspended sentence of three years and was placed on probation for three years.
But a Missouri statute says no person shall qualify as a candidate for elective office if he or she has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to a felony.
Young says that Hensley is wasting taxpayer money and that the conviction is no longer on his record. He also wonders why Hensley waited so long to take action.
Hensley’s office said Monday that the case had gone unnoticed because of a “system failure” to properly record Young’s conviction with the Missouri Highway Patrol. The case was, however, always part of Cass County Circuit Court records.
As to the timing, Hensley, a Democrat, said she could file a court challenge only after Young took the oath.
“I believe that once Mr. Young took office, Missouri law requires that the prosecutor seek removal of an officeholder who does not qualify to hold that office,” Hensley said.
On Nov. 2, Young defeated incumbent Democrat Gary Mallory. Mallory and the Cass County Democratic Central Committee soon filed a lawsuit raising the felony conviction issue. But in early December, Mallory dropped his lawsuit, saying the voters clearly wanted Young to have the job.
A day later, news came that Mallory had talked to county officials about doing consulting work for the county.
All involved denied any quid pro quo.
Young, who didn’t take office until Saturday, told The Star on Dec. 8 that he had never spoken to Mallory about a consulting job.
Young has new assault charges pending stemming from allegations that he roughed up a teenage boy at a “mud run” June 26.