Yancey County board of elections petitions state to remove staffer

By Jonathan Austin

Yancey County News

published June 2, 2011

The North Carolina Board of Elections has been petitioned to fire an employee who works at the elections department in Burnsville.

Charles McCurry, the chairman of the Yancey County Board of Elections, told the Yancey County News on Thursday morning that the board voted 2-1 last to petition the state to remove an employee on allegations that she violated the law and conducted herself in an improper manner.

“It has everything to do with violations of law and conduct,” McCurry said.

McCurry initially refused to speak about the vote, but when the newspaper informed him that his silence could be violating the law because all board votes are public record, he relented.

McCurry said the board of elections first met on May 13 in closed session to discuss the situation, and that they adjourned until early last week to give each of the members time to consider the petition and “not act rashly.”

Still, he declined to name the individual who the board wants fired.

“It’s not politically motivated,” he said.

He said the board acted after witnesses from Yancey and Raleigh voiced concern that the elections staffer was breaking the law in the days leading up to the November general election.

He said the determination was influenced by “witnesses who were members of the board, witnesses who were employed by the board, witnesses who are staff of the board of elections in Raleigh.”

Asked about the board members themselves saying they witnessed actions that were improper, McCurry said: “Part of the discussion was ‘the board should have addressed that’ at the time. But the board is not tasked with the day-to-day operations of the elections office. That is the responsibility of the staff hired by the board.”

He said residents and voters complained to Raleigh before election day, but “a lot of these things came to light after the election.” He said there is “a tremendous amount” of evidence that led the board to conclude that illegal acts may have taken place in the elections office in the general election.

Asked if criminal charges would be filed, he said, “That is not up to the (local) board. That is up to the state board of elections.”

He said the motion to petition the state to fire the staffer did not name the staffer, nor did it identify the person by title. He said the board voted to “forward the petition concerning violations of law” to the state.

The petition goes to the director of the state elections board, and from there goes to the chairman of the state board.

The local board of elections is made up of McCurry, Grace Whitson and Gary Boone.

McCurry said the state board could schedule a hearing into the allegations of illegal action, and would notify the person in question of the charges or accusations. McCurry said members of the public “did make allegations of the issues with personal conduct.”

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