US publisher sues West Virginia secretary of state

Thomas Harding alleges Natalie Tennant has prevented him from revealing information about a controve

The publisher of a West Virginia-based monthly, The Shepherdstown Observer, has sued Natalie Tennant, the secretary of state of West Virginia, alleging that that she is misusing election law to stifle the paper's investigation into "voting irregularities".

According to a report by The Charleston Gazette, publisher Thomas Harding says Tennant has used a pending investigation against him to stop him from revealing information about a controversial zoning referendum in Jefferson County.

Harding filed a case on Wednesday in Kanawha Circuit Court. His lawsuit says he had posted a photograph of poll worker Ronda Lehman on the Observer's website, showing her at work in the absence of citizens, voting booths or ballots.

Lehman had earlier organised a petition drive against a new zoning ordinance, over which the Observer filed a Freedom of Information Act request. Later developments led to a pending case in the state's Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the secretary of state's office notified Harding that he was under investigation for possible violations of West Virginia election law, which prohibits journalists from entering polling sites as reporters.