GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – There’s another chapter complete in the long-running saga of who fills the seat in District 3 of the Guilford County Board of Education but the ending appears nowhere near.
The Guilford County Republican Party’s Executive Committee offered its proposed conclusion by voting Wednesday to the surprise of few to place former teacher Michael Logan in the seat, a release by the party said. It did not mention whether anyone else had been nominated or what the vote might have been in the group’s private meeting.
Logan, of course, has been the committee’s choice since November, had been rejected five times in votes by the school board, had been the motivation for two changes in state law and is a plaintiff in a civil suit against the board about how it acted to seat another Republican, William J. “Bill” Goebel, in April.
“We are confident Mr. Logan will represent District 3 well,” GCRC Chair Chris Meadows said in release after a special meeting and vote. “His unique perspective and experience as an educator is invaluable to the Board of Education.
“As a board member, Mr. Logan looks forward to serving the parents and students with the same enthusiastic tenacity as he did as a teacher. Mr. Logan is very approachable and intends to be active and visible in his district.”
The question, is, though, whether Logan will be seated to serve the remaining term created when Pat Tillman was elected to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners. last November.
Here’s where the plot twists: Goebel, who had been censured by the party for agreeing to take the seat when its leaders didn’t vote for him to do so, said he didn’t attend Wednesday night’s meeting “because there is no seat to fill.”
Charles Winfree, Goebel’s attorney, said Wednesday that the General Assembly “has no authority” to create a position on the school board and that Goebel was seated and expected to remain there for the board’s next meeting, which is scheduled for Sept. 19.
“They [lawmakers] can’t create a vacancy,” Winfree said. “There is no vacancy.”
Some Democrats representing Guilford County in the General Assembly have suggested there are constitutional issues with the bill lawmakers passed recently that was designed to clear the path for Logan.
Winfree said he and Goebel will weigh their next steps, notify the school board and huddle with officials to determine how to proceed. He said he and Michael Crowell, the attorney hired by the school board to handle the lawsuit brought by two Republican members of the board and Logan, would be in touch.
Meadows, in his release, cited state law that would suggest “the nominee shall take the oath of office at the next regular meeting of the Guilford County Board of Education following submission of a nomination to the Superintendent of Schools of Guilford County.”
He said that “we expect Mr. Logan to be sworn in and seated at the next scheduled Board meeting. We anticipate a sizable crowd of voters and supporters from Guilford County District 3, as well as elected officials from Guilford County and the NC General Assembly to attend.”
Logan taught automotive courses for 26 years in Guilford County Schools before resigning as a required step to be able to join the school board, but he never came close to the seat because the board, controlled by six Democrats, objected to his criticisms and comments on social media.
How we got here
The first words in this latest chapter were written when the North Carolina General Assembly earlier this month approved Senate Bill 9, which includes language requiring the seat to be vacated by Goebel immediately after a new nominee is chosen by the party’s executive committee, which is what GOP officials have argued all along.
The party had suggested that once it made a new appointment “the Superintendent of Guilford County Schools in accordance with the law, that individual shall take the oath of office at the next regular meeting of the Board. The Board has no vote or voice in the matter.”
But this entire the saga actually began in December, when the board rejected Logan for the first of four votes and then voted for Goebel over Logan’s objectives on April 4. Goebel, who also volunteered, was seated despite a first piece of legislation that appeared to define the conclusion.
Goebel, who last week launched his candidacy for the full-term seat in the 2024 election cycle, has made a career of working with young people and is an avowed Republican and fiscal conservative. He just wasn’t the GCRC’s choice.
After he was seated, the party had censured him for his cooperation with the board despite a history of being a loyal party member. He has been steadfast for weeks in saying “our position is there is no vacancy to fill.”
Board’s actions were ‘repugnant’
But since December the board had rejected Logan in four party-line votes because the six Democrats objected to some of Logan’s public statements. In a letter to the News & Record earlier this year, Board Chair Deena Hayes 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.”
The GC GOP had said that its leaders think the party all along has been compliant with the law but chose to work through the legislative process – initiated by Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) and Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), whose district includes some of the same geography as District 3, over objections from Democrats in the Guilford County delegation – rather than “cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars” with a possible lawsuit against a public board.
“As the Chairman of the Guilford County Republican Party, I find the actions of the Board Democrats and the illegally appointed representative repugnant,” Meadows said in a statement two weeks ago. “Not only did the Board Chair and other Board members slander Mr. Michael Logan, a 25-year, beloved GCS teacher, they disrespected the two Republican Board members Ms. Crissy Pratt and Ms. Linda Welborn, undermined the NC General Assembly, and disenfranchised the citizens in District 3 for months.
“The Guilford County Republican Party, as a dignified assembly, will not tolerate pernicious schemes and illegal backroom deals.”
Welborn, Pratt and Logan have sued – the party is soliciting donations to cover their legal expenses – because they feel that Hayes, the Democrats on the board and Goebel violated the state’s open meetings law through a series of communications that led to his seating.
Guilford County Superior Court Judge Brad Long last week denied the school board’s motion to dismiss the case and initiated discovery.
That suit names as individuals Goebel and those six Democrats – Khem Irby, Bettye Jenkins, Deborah Napper, Allen Sherouse, T. Dianne Bellamy Small and Hayes – and the Guilford County School Board at large.