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Forsyth Co. elections board declines request to pay attorney fees

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FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — A Tobaccoville councilwoman who was affected by a mishandled recount last November has asked the Forsyth County Board of Elections to reimburse her attorney fees, but the board does not plan to do so.

The elections board voted Tuesday night for its attorney, Lonnie Albright, to send Lori Shore-Smith a letter explaining his opinion that the board has no statutory authority to pay for attorney fees in that situation.

Shore-Smith said on Wednesday that she did not plan to fight the board’s decision. She said she understood that it is not a statutory requirement but thought after the mishandling of the recount that they would consider reimbursing her.

“It was an unnecessary expense,” Shore-Smith said. “Due to the mishandling of the recount, I hired an attorney.”

Last November, a provisional ballot tied the race between Shore-Smith and Steve Wood for a seat on the Tobaccoville Village Council. The board had to call for a second recount after an error was discovered with the numbers from the first recount.

Shore-Smith hired an attorney to represent her at the second recount. A hearing was also scheduled for an election protest Shore-Smith had filed questioning a voter’s residency, but she withdrew the protest after the second recount led to her being declared the winner.

Rob Coffman, Forsyth County’s elections director, was later fired by state elections director Kim Strach because of mistakes he made with the recount. The Republican members of the local board had petitioned the state to fire him based on the recount and other complaints.

Shore-Smith sent an email to the county board of elections on April 5 to request reimbursement of $750 in attorney’s fees. She apologized for the delay, saying she had originally sent an email to Strach, but did not receive a response until April 4. The response directed her to the local board, Shore-Smith said.

Lamar Joyner, interim elections director for Forsyth County, reminded the board members of Shore-Smith’s email during a meeting Tuesday night.

The meeting started an hour late because there was no quorum. Secretary Stuart Russell was the only member present at 5 p.m. Chairman Ken Raymond apologized for arriving late, saying he had failed to put a meeting reminder on his calendar or phone. Board member Fleming El-Amin was not present.

School employees were initially on hand to talk about proposed changes at school polling sites but were rescheduled to speak at the board’s next meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday.