GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Senate Bill 9, the bill amended by the North Carolina House to address a seat on the Guilford County Board of Education, kept lawmakers working late on Wednesday night, and it was passed by both chambers with some last-minute trickery that has become a hallmark of how this drama with the board has played out.
First, the Senate did not concur with the House’s amendment, which called for William Goebel, a Republican appointed by the school board in a controversial move to fill out a vacant term in District 3, to be removed and replaced by former teacher Michael Logan, whom the Guilford County Republican Party had preferred for the position.
SB 9 originally was a local omnibus bill dealing with elections in the town of Apex and in Hayward and Madison counties that state Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) surprisingly had amended to offer language to address the issue about the school board that an earlier bill had failed to satisfy.
But after the Senate voted not to concur with those changes, each chamber appointed conferees – Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth) and Hardister among them – and came back late in the evening with a conference bill that included some major surprises.
That measure, introduced by Krawiec and Sen. Gale Adcock (D-Wake), didn’t change anything about the original aspects of the bill but in fact added the civil service boards to oversee police and fire departments for Winston-Salem and Greensboro that no one had requested and city officials said they do not want. That issue had been withdrawn by the House in April and in fact never had been taken up in the Senate.
Yet, it passed the Senate on a party-line vote, 28-17, and as soon as Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson struck the gavel, the House already had adjourned, meaning it apparently had passed before it had crossed over in the original order.
‘Didn’t ask for this’
It’s unclear what led to this change to SB 9, although Hardister is known to support these boards, but even though Krawiec introduced the changes, her fellow Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Winston-Salem) spoke urgently to try to intervene. Sen. Gladys Robinson (D-Greensboro) also spoke against the bill.
“We didn’t ask for this bill in Winston-Salem and have asked to be removed from the bill [in previous discussions] because the because the citizens and city officials addressed do not want or need this bill.
“Looking at police officers and firefighters. These are very important people who have to deal with the lives of citizens. … They are the ones that have to make the critical decision.
“When we start to instituting boards and then we say that we know we want transparency and the very people that talk about making laws for transparency …. It’s the wrong way to go about this. Nothing should be forced on a city and its citizenry that it didn’t request.”
Said Robinson: “I just want to ditto to some of what Sen. Lowe said. Greensboro and Guilford County school board didn’t want either piece, not the school board or Greensboro City Council.”
As for the school board aspect – the original controversy – there could be further challenges. Sen. Michael Garrett (D-Guilford) said there are “serious constituti8oanl challenges according to attorneys I’ve spoken with.”
How we got here
SB 9 became relevant on June 28, when the House passed an amendment to an unrelated local bill, introduced by Hardister but opposed by the Democratic majority of the Guilford County delegation.
Logan, who retired after a 26-year career as an automotive teacher at Southern Guilford High School, first was rejected by the board in early December because he was a vocal critic of the board, and some of its members accused him of insensitivity and “divisive opinions” in social media posts. The board subsequently voted four times to reject his nomination, each vote along party lines.
A self-characterized fiscal conservative Republican who lives in District 3 with a long record of working with young people, Goebel long ago had volunteered for the seat created when Patrick Tillman was elected to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners last November.
But the post had remained unfilled as the board continued to reject Logan’s nomination before a stunning and controversial turn of events that is the foundation for an ongoing lawsuit. Both Republicans on the board opposed Goebel.
He worked the most recent school board meeting on Tuesday as the district prepares for the opening of classes on Aug. 28. It was his fifth month he has served District 3 since he was elected April 4 by the Democrat-controlled board, 6-2.
School board attorney Jill Wilson on April 4 had found a loophole in the language of House Bill 88, a local bill designed to specify the process through which the position would be filled that was passed on March 15 by the General Assembly and immediately became law. The amendment to SB 9 was to correct that loophole.
Hardister had said that “the loophole was essentially predicated on a previous law that stated that the political party executive committee members within a geographic district (in this case, District 3) vote to confirm the nominee, whereas a newer version of the law required the full executive committee to vote to confirm the nominee (the GCRP submitted the nomination to the BOE with only the District 3 executive committee members voting).
“In my view, this is a gratuitous interpretation that flouts the obvious intention of the law. It was an act of bad faith because it was clear what the intention of the law was and who the GCRP had selected to fill the vacancy.”
GOP raising $$$$ for a lawsuit
Meanwhile, Republicans in Guilford County have launched a fundraising campaign to support the lawsuit filed by the two other Republicans on the school board, Linda Welborn, who represents District 4, and Crissy Pratt of District 2, and Logan, who claim that the six Democrats conducted illegal meetings to create a path for Goebel to fill the opening in District 3.
The email, authored by GC GOP Chair Chris Meadows, says the trio is trying to raise $15,000 to pay the lawyer they have hired. The email states incorrectly that Logan was “elected” by Republicans. He was chosen by some members of the executive committee.
It’s also unclear whether soliciting donations to remove a Republican is in line with the state party’s charter. An email to a spokesperson for the NC GOP did not respond immediately.
“Please forward to and rally your Republican friends that want to crush a few crooked Democrats,” Meadows’ email said. “Let’s help our elected Republican friends win this case!!”
Judge Brad Long during a hearing earlier this month in Guilford County Superior Court asked the plaintiffs’ attorney, former District Court judge Jon Kreider, and J. Michael Crowell, a Raleigh attorney representing the school board, to submit copies from the actual cases they had cited in arguing a motion Crowell had made to dismiss the suit.
The suit names as individuals Goebel and the six Democrats on the board – Chair Deena Hayes and members Khem Irby, Bettye Jenkins, Deborah Napper, Allen Sherouse and T. Dianne Bellamy Small – and the Guilford County school board at large.