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article imageGOP members of Watauga BOE accused of 'abuse of authority'

By Kelly Fetty     Oct 23, 2013 in Politics
Boone - Alleging "systematic and widespread abuse of authority," three local Democrats have asked the North Carolina State Board of Elections to subpoena witnesses and hold a hearing to remove Luke Eggers and Bill Aceto from the Watauga County Board of Elections.
The petition was filed by Jesse Presnell, Ian O'Keefe and Stella Anderson.
Anderson is a former chair of the Watauga County Board of Elections, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
Under North Carolina law, any voter can request the removal of members of their local board of elections by filing a “brief, intelligent statement of facts constituting the official misconduct alleged, with a reference to the date and place of such misconduct" with the State Board of Elections.
Don Wright, who has been general counsel to the State Board of Elections for 13 years, told High Country Press he had never seen a “complaint being filed under this procedure.”
He called such complaints "very rare."
Aceto and Eggers were appointed to the three-person board in August. Both are Republicans, giving them a majority vote over Democrat Kathleen Campbell.
“I believe they have acted contrary to law, acted unethically and are not serving the interests of the voting public,” Anderson told the Winston-Salem Journal. “Accordingly, they should be disqualified and removed by the State Board."
Group says subpoenas necessary
This is the second formal complaint filed by Anderson, O'Keefe and Presnell. A previous complaint filed October 8 listed 15 charges and accused Eggers and Aceto of making "arbitrary and capricious choices" for new polling places, scrubbing objections to their decisions from meeting minutes and allowing County Attorney Four Eggers to control the board from behind the scenes, among other things.
The new complaint asks the State Board of Elections to issue subpoenas to five witnesses, including County Attorney Four Eggers, Watauga Elections Director Jane Ann Hodges and Watauga Board of Elections member Kathleen Campbell.
The complaint says that subpoenas are necessary because " the Board cannot get a clear picture of the circumstances leading to the petition without a full hearing with key witnesses present who can testify under oath." It claims both Hodges and Campbell fear retaliation if they testify without a subpoena.
The petition also says County Attorney Four Eggers "will not provide truthful information in these matters unless he is placed under oath."
Aceto: Petition is "obviously very partisan"
In an interview with High Country Press, Aceto called the October 8 complaint "obviously very partisan," and said it was the work of "a small group of local democrats [who] are unhappy."
Aceto filed a formal response to the charges with the State Board on October 10.
"It is very important to me that the County Board of Elections and its staff remain politically neutral and not be used as a pawn by either political party for gain or advantage," he wrote.
He denied charges that Four Eggers was manipulating the board.
“We as board members may consult with any individuals of our choosing, and in fact were encouraged by the State Board (of Elections) members at our training seminar to call upon the knowledge and experience of past board members," he said.
He disputed accusations labeling the Board's choice of new polling places "arbitrary and capricious." At least one location had been previously selected when the Board was under Democratic control, he said.
He called three of the 15 charges "false."
Don Wright told the Winston-Salem Journal the State Board was reviewing the complaint. No further action by the Board has been announced.
More about NC voting law, Viva, Luther "Luke" Eggers, Bill Aceto, Watauga County Board of Elections
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