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Primary predicaments

The two Democratic candidates for Third District Commissioner have come out swinging, with clearly marked offensive-defensive moves.
Joseph N. (Nick) Cox Jr. is distributing campaign literature calling his opponent’s ethics into question and making promises and claims that are short or lacking on specifics.
Terry L. Miller of Elizabeth said he’s not going to sit back and allow anyone to question his integrity or tell outright lies or implications of wrongdoing in hopes of gaining the Democratic nomination to run for the office in the fall.
Miller, 55, attacks point by point the statements made by Cox, also of Elizabeth, in campaign literature he distributes.
‘He’s running a rat campaign,’ Miller said last week. ‘I didn’t do anything immoral, illegal or wrong.
‘I don’t like this dirty campaigning.’
In a written statement, Cox, 57, said he doesn’t think the voters want the fall election to be a rematch between Miller and Jim Heitkemper, the Republican from Elizabeth who beat Miller four years ago by capturing 50.44 percent of the vote and is now seeking a second term.
Cox said, ‘I don’t see that happening. The people I have talked to tell me that if this did happen, then what we will see is the same politics as usual with the same ‘good ole boy’ attitude and with the same old promises and same old ideas.
‘We here in Harrison County need a breath of fresh air and someone with new ideas, and I’m the one who can provide them.’
Miller countered: ‘I think (good ole boy) is a derogatory term people use for people they want to get their job. It sounds like you’re a country bumpkin and you don’t know a thing; you’re in the position you’re in because somebody has given it to you.’
He added: ‘I have tried to understand what Joe Nick means by saying I’m a ‘good ole boy.’ If by that Joe Nick means someone who was a leader in Harrison County when the county experienced unprecedented changes for the better, then I guess I am a ‘good ole boy.’
‘If he means it in a derogatory manner, I don’t have a clue as to what he means.’
Miller takes issue with Cox’s insinuation that Miller did anything unethical by holding a fund-raiser and receiving contributions from persons or businesses that have worked for the county.
‘These contributions are legal, but are they ethical?’ Cox asked. ‘Can the citizens of Harrison County trust and have the confidence to believe that Mr. Miller’s sole interest will be for the good of the county? By accepting some of these contributions Mr. Miller has potentially compromised the integrity of the office and has created the potential to become a conflict of interest that is not in the best interest of Harrison County.’
Miller said he held a golf scramble at the Old Capital Golf Club in October to raise funds for his campaign.
‘There was a mix of individuals (both local and from elsewhere) that I have come to know over the years,’ Miller said. ‘I have reported and filed all necessary forms required to report this activity. There is nothing illegal or unethical about the fund-raiser.’
Miller filed an itemized campaign finance report on Jan. 6 showing funds he had received from June 6 through Dec. 31, 2005, totaling $8,614, much of which was raised at a golf outing that netted $7,313.
Cox also said he has worked for the Harrison County Highway Dept., and as a result has learned ‘this county is really run from the commissioners down to the worker’s level. Believe me, there is plenty of room for improvement,’ he said. ‘I will make changes for the good of the county, not for my personal gain.’
Miller said Cox should be more specific and explain what changes he plans to make to improve Harrison County. And Miller said during his years in office, he never made decisions based on personal gain.
Cox was hired in 1998 on Miller’s recommendation to work at the highway department. He was fired from the highway department and later received $5,000 from the commissioners’ contractual account in settlement of a claim filed under the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Act through the Indiana Dept. of Labor.
As part of the settlement agreement signed Jan. 17, 2006, Cox agreed to withdraw his ‘discrimination complaint,’ and the highway department agreed ‘to remove from the company records any and all information about the complainant’s (Cox’s) involvement in protective activity as well as all records of disciplinary action surrounding this matter.’ Respondent also agreed not to transfer any such records to ‘any other employment record.’
Cox said he could not discuss the matter, but, ‘The bottom line is I wasn’t fired.’
He said the agreement is not a matter of public record.
By motion of Jim Heitkemper, the commissioners approved signing ‘the agreement with the Department of Labor and all related documents regarding the settlement’ on Jan. 17, according to the minutes.
The claim was advertised Feb. 1 in The Corydon Democrat for $5,000 to the Indiana Dept. of Labor.
‘Me and the county came to an agreement,’ Cox said. ‘I was told I could not discuss it.
‘How you got the information … wasn’t by me. I can’t discuss none of the details. An agreement was made, and I was happy with it.’
Miller said, ‘If he’s ethical, he needs to set the record straight; he needs to release his records and let everybody see them, if he’s got nothing to hide.’
Miller has called for a debate, but so far no plans have been announced.