These days it's become all the rage not just to disagree with public officials but to question their legitimacy. A sterling example comes from Madison resident and book author Mary Jo Fahey.
Fahey, upset by the posture of state agriculture officials toward dairy farmers who produce raw milk, set out to check the oaths of office for several officials, including Gov. Jim Doyle, state Agriculture Secretary Rod Nilsestuen and state Department of Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake. These she obtained from the Secretary of State's Office for $6 each.
When Fahey reviewed these copies, she made what she thought was a startling discovery: The oath for Doyle contained a notary stamp that was not fully legible, while the ones for Nilsestuen and Timberlake showed no stamp at all.
Fahey thus concluded, in a letter to Isthmus, that Doyle "has not been governor." She also purportedly filed an "Affidavit of Criminal Complaint" with the state attorney general, the Dane County sheriff and the FBI, alleging that the missing notary seal on Nilsestuen's oath and the lack of an oath for Ag administrator Steven Ingham mean their official actions "are void and of no legal force and effect."
In an interview last week, Fahey called the invalid oaths a "deliberate" attempt to avoid consequences for improper behavior. She bristled at the suggestion that there may be some less ominous explanation.
Turns out, there is. Ingham says he is not required to take an oath. And a visit to the Secretary of State's Office, which anyone can make, shows that the oaths of Doyle, Nilsestuen and Timberlake all are properly notarized - with a stamp that indents the page but does not show up on photocopies. On Doyle's oath, someone lightly shaded this stamp with a pencil to make it somewhat visible.
Notaries may use either a stamp or a seal. Marjorie Ehle, an administrator in the Secretary of State's Office, says either is valid.
Fahey did not respond to a message offering to explain why her accusations did not pan out. But hey, has anybody seen a copy of Doyle's birth certificate?