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article image'Digital thumprints' add to Watauga County elections controversy

By Kelly Fetty     Sep 18, 2013 in Politics
Winston Salem - Key resolutions and documents attributed to the Watauga County Board of Elections may actually have been written by County Attorney Stacy "Four" Eggers and passed off as the Board's work, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
"Digital thumbprints" left on controversial resolutions passed by the Board identify Stacy "Four" Eggers as the author, the Winston-Salem Journal reported Sunday. The same "thumbprints" also indicate that the computer used to create the documents belongs to Egger's law firm, Eggers, Eggers, Eggers and Eggers.
The "digital thumbprints" referred to are document properties, also called metadata, that all word processors attach to documents. Document properties are details that provide information about a document, such as the person who created it and the time and date it was created. They can be retrieved using specific keystrokes.
Stacy "Four" Eggers is County Attorney for Watauga County. He was a member of the Watauga County Board of Elections for 8 years and was the state Republican Party's first choice for appointment to the County Elections Board in June.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections declined to appoint him due to his role as County Attorney.
“I don’t think he can do both jobs because the county attorney often has to advise the county board of elections,” State Board of Elections Chair Josh Howard told the Winston-Salem Journal.
Instead, the State Board appointed Four Eggers' brother, Luther "Luke" Eggers.
Some local Democrats suspect that Four Eggers is now controlling the Watauga Board of Elections from behind the scenes.
“He can’t act as [Luke Eggers'] brother or his friend or his adviser without simultaneously acknowledging that he’s always acting as county attorney," Democrat and former Elections Board Chairwoman Stella Anderson told the Winston-Salem Journal. ". And when he writes [resolutions] … for this board, he’s running the board.”
Local Republicans say Luke Eggers has every right to ask his brother's advice.
" I’m not going to stop [Four Eggers] from giving advice to his brother. And I don’t think that creates any kind of conflict,” Nathan Miller, the Republican chairman of the county board of commissioners, told the Winston-Salem Journal.
Four Eggers called his efforts "corroborative" during a 40-minute interview with the paper.
“I’m glad to say that I helped Luke work on some of those," he said.
He refused to claim authorship, but later added, “You know, it depends on what you’re looking at. Some of them, I had helped him type it up while we sat and talked about things. Some of them might have been over the phone. Some of them Luke was in the office.”
The Winston-Salem Journal tried to contact Luke Eggers via telephone and email. He did not respond.
Contentious Meeting Draws National Attention
The newly appointed, Republican-led Board attracted national media attention with a sweeping set of resolutions presented during a tumultuous meeting on August 12.
The resolutions included combining three precincts into a single "super precinct" that would serve over 9,000 voters while offering only 35 parking spaces.
Another resolution decreed that all public comments must be submitted to the Board in writing. Residents attending meetings would no longer be permitted to verbally address the board.
The Board's lone Democrat, Kathleen Campbell, charged that she and other election staff were not given copies of the resolutions or agenda until just before the meeting, according to a report in the Watauga Democrat.
A video of the meeting posted to Google Drive shows a visibly angry Campbell objecting to the resolutions while a crowd of angry onlookers hoots and jeers at the Board.
The controversy caught the attention of MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, who covered the dispute and aired a clip of the video on August 15.
More Thumbprints, Timestamps Found
Document properties also list Four Eggers as the author of a letter written to Kim Strach, Executive Director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
The letter explains and justifies the actions taken by the Watauga County Board of Elections on August 12.
According to the Winston-Salem Journal, document properties indicate the letter was first created at 9:48 a.m. on August 12, 2013.
The August 12 meeting began and 9 a.m. and was still in session at 9:48 a.m.
The first line of the letter reads "I am writing to you as chairman of the Watauga County Board of Elections."
Strach later objected to the created of a "super precinct" in Watauga County and the resolution was withdrawn.
Document properties list Four Eggers as the author of the document withdrawing the resolution.
Luke Eggers defended the documents, telling the Watauga Democrat "All of these resolutions that have come out, these have been my thoughts. It's stuff I've been wanting to do."
More about Watauga County Board of Elections, North Carolina Election Law, WinstonSalem Journal, NC State Board of Elections, Luther "Luke" Eggers
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