GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – The passage of Senate Bill 9 on Wednesday night has created an expectation that William Goebel will be removed immediately from the District 3 seat on the Guilford County Board of Education, an expectation not shared by everyone.
But don’t add a second half of that sentence to say that Goebel will automatically be replaced by former teacher Michael Logan, the man the Guilford County Republicans had chosen last year to fill the seat.
Guilford County GOP Chair Christopher Meadows said Thursday that the county committee would have a meeting a nominate someone to fill the seat, per the language of SB 9. He said he expects Logan to be a candidate for that election.
“The appointed representative is no longer on the board once this bill is ratified into law, likely today,” Meadows said in response to questions from WGHP. “Per the law, the term of the appointee is immediately ended.
“The next step for the Guilford GOP is to convene and elect someone to fill the vacancy. We expect a couple of folks to run, and Michael is one of them.”
You may recall Logan four times had been denied by the Democratic majority to fill the seat of Republican Pat Tillman, who resigned after he was elected on Nov. 8 to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners. Democrats cited Logan’s social media posts and controversial and “divisive” opinions.
SB 9 was an omnibus local bill about the city of Apex and several other municipalities that state Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) had amended to address the school board situation. Because the bill was adopted by both chambers and is a local bill, it is not subject to veto.
A prior bill passed in April by the General Assembly, House Bill 88, was introduced by Hardister and Rep. John Faircloth (R-Guilford) to clean up language in the statute covering this process. But board attorney Jill Wilson found a loophole that allowed board members on April 4 to select Goebel, another Republican who had volunteered for the job.
He was sworn in that same night, and Logan didn’t take the news well, asking the board, “How can you sleep at night?” He was escorted from the room by police but neither handcuffed nor arrested.
Logan, who had retired after a 27-year career as an automotive instructor at Southeast Guilford High School, has said that he expected to be seated on the board and would be a candidate to win the nomination for the 4-year term in March.
Goebel, an avowed Republican and fiscal conservative who this week launched his campaign to win the seat in 2024, said he was unaware that the GOP was planning to conduct a new party vote on the position. He noted that he might not be considered in the immediate vote because, after his appointment, the party censured him.
‘No vacancy to fill’
Emails sent to school board Chair Deena Hayes and a spokesperson for Guilford County Schools drew no immediate response, leaving it unclear what steps might be taken before the board’s next scheduled meeting on Sept. 19.
Meadows, who was traveling, didn’t specify when the GOP might gather to vote on the position. Ironically, Hayes in a letter to the News & Record earlier this year had asked that the GOP “put forward” candidates who had “not engaged in racially prejudiced writing, who seek to embody the values a board of Education member should hold and who have expressed an interest in representing District 3.”
Said Goebel in a text message: “Our position is there is no vacancy to fill.”
Concerned about actions
Hardister said it was his opinion that SB 9 would bring an end to the dispute.
“This is a chance to get back to square one and allow the Board to do the right thing and seat the Republican Party’s nominee,” he said. “It will allow the Republican Party to exercise its legal right to select a nominee.
“This is not a power play or a move against Bill Goebel. It is simply an effort to rectify an unjust situation and effectuate the intention of the law. I would say the same if the situation were in reverse and it were a Democratic member who resigned from a board that had a Republican majority.”
Said Logan in an email: “I have always had faith in the elected officials in N.C. to hold the school board accountable. We are in a lawsuit in hopes that the Judicial system will hold the board accountable with the upcoming 2024 election it is my hope for the voters to hold the board accountable. I believe I have the support of the Republican party, and it is in the hands now of the local Republican party.
“We should be concerned with the actions of our school board no matter your party affiliation. The leadership of our board has and continues to use divisive tactics. I have never wavered in my pursuit of the District 3 seat in support of our educators, students, and ultimately, the taxpayers of Guilford County.”
The two other Republicans on the school board, Linda Welborn, who represents District 4, and Crissy Pratt of District 2, and Logan had sued in May, claiming that the six Democrats conducted illegal meetings to create a path for Goebel to fill the seat. The suit names the board in general and each Democrat specifically.
It’s unclear the effect the passage of SB 9 might have on the status of that suit, which currently is under Judge Brad Long’s request that attorneys provide more information to back their arguments. Welborn didn’t respond immediately to an email about that. The GOP is helping raise money for their legal expenses.
“We are assisting in the fundraising for the plaintiffs but are not a party to the lawsuit,” Meadows said. “This lawsuit is about the violations of the NC Open Meetings law. It will move forward as far as I’m aware. I have not heard that they are dropping it.”
Meadows also indicated he didn’t expect the school board to be suing the GOP about this issue. “Any legal action would be directed at the General Assembly,” he said. “The Guilford GOP did not pass this law.”