RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – A judge in Wake County has denied a motion to stay the certification of the school bond referendum in Guilford County, rejecting the latest effort to slow or stop the county from borrowing millions for Guilford County Schools.
Twice denied by elections officials and told there is insufficient evidence to order the new election that he has sought, former Guilford County Commissioner Jerry “Alan” Branson Branson on Friday filed a notice of appeal and requested a stay to protest the voters’ approval on May 17 of the $1.7 billion bond referendum to repair, rebuild and replace the county’s crumbling schools.
Both the Guilford County Board of Elections and the North Carolina Board of Elections had voted, 3-2, against Branson, whose complaint was that the county and the Guilford County Board of Education had used taxpayers’ funds to endorse the passage of the bonds in a variety of communications with voters.
The state BOE on June 30 first declined to remand the matter to the Guilford County Board of Elections, which had rejected Branson’s complaint earlier this month, and then dismissed the matter entirely because members felt that there was insufficient evidence that would change the outcome of the election.
In discussions of the motions, the two NC BOE members who voted to hold more hearings on the matter agreed that there was likely insufficient information to suggest that the margin of the election would be affected. The bond issue passed by more than 16,000 votes, but an attached referendum to approve a sales-tax increase failed.
Superior Court Judge Nolan Graves on Monday morning heard arguments for the stay from attorneys representing a group called “Taxpayers for Honest Elections,” and he issued his ruling on Monday afternoon, declining to deter the certification.
Branson’ sought to delay the Guilford County Board of Election’s certification of the vote. It’s unclear how this action would affect the Board of Education, which already has started the process for spending the bond revenue and announced plans to provide routine updates.
Guilford County Elections Director Charlie Collicutt had indicated Friday that Branson would have to get the stay to stop the certification. He did not respond immediately on Monday to an email to update that timetable.
“While we are disappointed by today’s ruling, we have decided to wait for the full order to be released before we decide if and how to proceed. We want to ensure we are doing what is right for the taxpayers of Guilford County and are fully weighing our options of how to bring justice,” attorney Kevin Cline said in a release from the group.
Branson said in the release that the decision “is a huge disappointment for the taxpayers and voters of Guilford County who deserve a straight-shooting, honest, and transparent government, especially when it comes to their tax dollars. I can’t say enough about the support we’ve gotten from the community, and through our Facebook and GoFundMe pages – it’s been truly encouraging.”
On Friday he had said that the boards of election “have both turned a blind eye towards the unlawful actions of these government agencies because they didn’t believe their abuses affected the outcome of the election. However, I am not willing to turn a blind eye to misuse of taxpayer funds, especially not when it leads to dishonest elections.”