Another heated debate between Election Commissioner Cynthia Sims and Election Commission Secretary Stuart "Stu" Soffer left Sims retreating to the bathroom, with Soffer offering demeaning words to her as she walked away.

“Hope everything comes out okay,” Soffer said.

Sims ignored the comment.

A war of words — that was the sound of Thursday's Jefferson County Election Commission meeting at the election center on Main Street downtown.

Commission Secretary Stuart “Stu” Soffer, Commissioner Cynthia Sims and Chairman Mike Adam quarreled for nearly half of the meeting over agenda items, including the topic of Election Coordinator Efrem Elliott.

“We are not in agreement as a commission,” Soffer said.

Sims and Soffer first clashed regarding the last meeting's minutes, which Sims said did not include remarks made to her by Soffer.

“I noticed you forgot to place something in the minutes,” Sims said to Soffer. “The last time we had our meeting you made a statement, and I felt like it was very disrespectful to me … I didn't see it in these minutes. The statement that you made to me was that 'You was tired of my s**t,' remember? And (that) 'I need to go somewhere.' And no one said anything. I never disrespected you, and I feel like you were out of order.”

As a part of the meeting's agenda, authorization for an election clerk, school election invoices, security camera access, a missing security camera unit, along with Elliott, were slated for discussion. But before those things could be explored further, Adam's and Soffer's disapproval of Elliott's coordinator's report sent the meeting into a tailspin.

“There were several things that I was asked to do in reference to the commission, and I reached out to Mr. Adam and asked him, because I hadn't gotten any training to help me with it. He stated that he was not going to do that and I should've got that training before,” Elliott said in his report.

“So, what I did was reach out to the election commission — state — and ask them about the school board reimbursements and some other things, and they have set up sometimes where they would work with me to get that information done.”

Seemingly bothered by Elliott's accusations, Adam quickly offered a rebuttal.

“I said I would not train you, because you should've already been trained … when you hire an election coordinator, that person should be able to do the job, and in the past they've always worked in that position before,” Adam said. “In addition to that, you have another person that's on the payroll that was probably training you or you said was training you, and the judge said that. And I also said that I don't get paid to work outside of my meetings; therefore, I wouldn't do any other work outside of a committee meeting, because I don't get paid for it.”

Despite Adam's refusal to offer training to Elliott, Soffer proposed showing Julie Kendrick the ropes as an election clerk, pending approval from Jefferson County Judge Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV.

“I'm asking you to please approve us to bring in a clerk,” Soffer said, adding that Elliott has demonstrated that he is incapable of following the duties. “He's not trained (and) he's been paid $10,927. 86 and (has) performed no work, no meaningful work, and it's just not right, sir. So, can we please have your approval verbally, we have enough witnesses, to work Julie Kendrick for not more than 20 hours a week to finalize the school election. If you want, I can show her how to do the reimbursements and prepare that… .”

Soffer went on to say that he was worried about the state of the upcoming elections.

“We're going to have a disaster in May if we don't act now,” he said. “That's my bottom line, and I hope I'm not being overly dramatic — I'm distressed.”

From there, the meeting quickly turned left, prompting the county's lawyers, Dustin McDaniel and Scott Richardson, to suggest that Wilkins and Elliott walk out. But before leaving, Wilkins made another plea to the commission that he was open to talking to them, but only if all parties were civil, unlike what was displayed at the meeting.

In a statement released to The Commercial, Wilkins said:

“It was beneath the dignity of my office to stay and be yelled at by those men, and I could not ask county employees to do so,” Wilkins said. “The video and audio of the meeting are public record. I challenge anyone to view the video and think of how they would react to being spoken to in such a manner.”

Initially, Soffer made a motion to “unaccept” Elliott's position as election coordinator for “failure to perform his coordinator duties” after Elliott walked out of the meeting.

But Soffer and Adam later decided to withdraw the motion and discuss the matter at a later date.

“I don't understand what training he got, because everything I suggested he do or told him to do, he's not been able to do it,” Adam said after reading an excerpt from a Sept. 9 story by The Commercial staff talking about Elliott's qualifications to do the job.

“It's very frustrating.”

Another heated debate between Sims and Soffer left Sims retreating to the bathroom, with Soffer offering demeaning words to her as she walked away.

“Hope everything comes out okay,” Soffer said.

Sims ignored the comment.

Upon Sims' return, Adam went through the final items on the agenda, which would be discussed at the next meeting since they — election clerk, security camera access — were either waiting on approval from the county judge or were not completed tasks — school election invoices — as assigned to Elliott by the commission.

However, the commission suggested turning the missing security camera matter over to the police. Before adjourning the meeting, Soffer expressed his sentiments about what took place.

“What happened is everything the county judge sat there and told us would not happen,” Soffer said.