RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – North Carolina Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitsett) is back with a new bill to ensure that political parties get the person they want to fill vacancies on school boards – which is not what happened two weeks ago in Guilford County.
That’s when the Board of Education used a loophole in the recently passed House Bill 88 to bypass teacher Michael Logan, the controversial nominee from the Guilford County Republican Party, and seat another Republican resident of District 3, William Goebel.
Now comes Hardister with House Bill 687, a statewide bill – HB 88 was a “local bill” – that would require partisan school boards to seat at their next meeting a qualifying candidate proposed by the political party within 30 days to fill a vacancy.
To translate: That removes the votes by the existing board that four times formally rejected Logan because Democrats found his public comments to be “divisive” and then to enshrine Goebel, who has much experience working with youth and who had volunteered to step in.
Hardister, the House majority whip, is the only sponsor of the bill, which names 29 counties, including Alleghany, Davie, Guilford, Surry and Stokes in the Piedmont Triad. HB 687 was read into the House on Wednesday and assigned to the Rules Committee, the first stop for all bills.
He said in a text message to WGHP that this is “a statewide bill that streamlines the process for all partisan vacancies” and that it “basically does the same thing that we already for Guilford – make it so partisan vacancies are filled via party appointment and swearing-in of the individual, rather than an action by the board.”
Hardister, who in 2019 had sponsored with several other members of the Guilford County delegation a bipartisan bill to reverse the school board’s partisan status – an that idea died because the Senate prefers partisan boards, he said – said he hadn’t had “any recent conversations with local school officials. We are still working on a response.”
The bill would not affect the status of Goebel, who filled a seat that became vacant when Pat Tillman resigned because he was elected in November to serve on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners. The term for that position expires in 2024, and Logan has said he will pursue the seat.
The Guilford County Republican Party last week censured Goebel because its board members “feel Mr. Goebel deceived the Republican Party,” GOP Chair Chris Meadows said. The party called Goebel’s appointment “backroom dealings.”
Said Goebel: ”I want to stay focused on ‘Keeping The Main Thing The Main Thing,’ that is the youth, parents and educators in District 3.”
School board attorney Jill Wilson had told board members at their meeting on April 4 that HB 88 had required them to consider candidates nominated by the executive committee of the Guilford County Republican Party within 30 days after the vacancy occurred (Dec. 7, she said).
But, she said, Logan had been nominated by the GOP from “members of the committee residing in District 3,” which was the language in the original statute. The removal of the word “district” in HB 88, Wilson said, thus invalidated the party’s nomination that had been received in the 30-day window.
The school board then nominated Goebel, and he was approved, 6-2, in another party-line vote and was sworn in immediately, a process that Meadows said was “circumventing the proper avenues for filling a vacancy on the Guilford County Board of Education.”
Logan, 57, an automotive instructor with Guilford County Schools since Aug. 13, 1997, had planned to resign his position when placed on the school board – which is a requirement – and that resignation was received by GCS on March 22, or about two weeks before the surprise turn of events at the board meeting.
Logan told the News & Record last week that he wasn’t returning to teaching because “going back would mean working in a system that actively conspired in secrecy to keep me off the board.”