Assessor Hires Ex-Commissioner

MOUNDSVIILLE – Marshall County Assessor Chris Kessler said experience and knowledge of the Marcellus shale industry were the deciding factors that prompted him to hire former county commissioner Jason “Jake” Padlow to work for his office.

Padlow, who spent 12 years as a commissioner, was hired earlier this spring by Kessler to fill a newly created position focused on natural gas activity. Kessler said he and another member of his staff became wrapped up in surveying that activity last summer, prompting him to create the position.

“With all the wells being drilled and leases being signed, we wanted to see everything that is going on with this and not miss anything,” Kessler said.

The assessor said his intention was to look into hiring for the position during the winter while the weather did not permit surveying and site visits. He began the search in December, just after Padlow had officially been defeated in a bid for re-election to his commission seat.

Unofficial vote totals released on election night incorrectly indicated Padlow was the winner of the November race. Several days later, however, Padlow was notified that nearly 3,000 early and absentee ballots had not been included in that vote total. During a canvass of the vote, challenger Bob Miller Jr. was found to have received more votes, prompting several weeks’ worth of challenges to the accuracy of the election and its results. Padlow eventually conceded that Miller had won by 85 votes.

The controversy ended with a memorandum of understanding between Padlow and county officials that stated he would no longer contest the election results, provided the county would make some changes to election procedures.

As Kessler was advertising for the new position, Padlow showed interest and applied. Kessler said the position was advertised as required by law, and five individuals were interviewed. He said Padlow’s background as a commissioner and frequent involvement with the natural gas industry made him the best qualified candidate.

“He knows this industry from the ground up,” Kessler said. “We want to take advantage of his experience and contacts.”

Kessler said in creating the new position, he initially met with the Marshall County Commission. Those meetings were held behind closed doors, Kessler said, and he declined to give further comment.

Marshall County Commissioner Brian Schambach on Thursday said he would not discuss the position directly, as it is a personnel matter. However, he said he and the other commissioners were made aware of Padlow’s hire last week and were not involved in Padlow’s hiring.

Without financial backing from the commission, Kessler chose to fund the new position through an account controlled solely by the assessor’s office. He said that account is separate from the general fund, which is administered by the commission. It was implemented more than 20 years ago by the state after state officials chose to reappraise property in the state.

“They knew it was going to be a major undertaking, so they created this budget that assessors have full control over,” Kessler said, adding the county commission also is not involved with hiring made through that account.

Any hiring done through that account, however, must be approved by the state Property Valuation Training and Procedures Commission, which Kessler said happened in Padlow’s case.

Padlow had no comment when contacted Thursday.