GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – The Guilford County Board of Education, in a stunning and controversial turn of events, on Tuesday night used a new interpretation of the state law passed March 16 by the General Assembly and swore in a  new member to fill the vacancy for District 3.

William J. “Bill” Goebel is sworn in to represent District 3 on the Guilford County Board of Education. (WGHP)

And that person was not teacher Michael Logan, who for months had been waiting the final vote and preparing to take his seat on the podium.

Instead, William J. “Bill” Goebel took the oath of office from District Court Judge Teresa H. Vincent just minutes after he was nominated by T. Dianne Bellamy Small and approved in a vote of 6-2, with all six Democrats voting for him and both Republicans against, although Goebel is required to be a Republican and to live in the district.

The move upstaged the months-long dispute with Logan, who had been nominated by the Guilford County Republican Party to replace Pat Tillman as the representative in District 3. Tillman was elected on Nov. 8 to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, and Logan had been rejected in four votes by the board because of his social media posts and controversial and “divisive” opinions.

Guilford County Board of Education nominee Michael Logan
Guilford County Board of Education nominee Michael Logan

Logan, at the rear of the room, expecting that his nomination would be rubber-stamped, was nonplussed and yelled at the board, “How can you sleep at night?”

After continuing to shout comments and failing to quiet down under the direction of Board Chair Deena Hayes, Logan was escorted from the room. Other loud protestors also were asked to leave. Logan was escorted out in handcuffs.

All of this happened after school board attorney Jill Wilson led the room through slide-by-slide through a presentation that showed the changes made recently through House Bill 88, which was passed in a local bill on March 15 and immediately became law.

The nomination process

Wilson said that bill, sponsored by state Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitsett) and Rep. John Faircloth (R-High Point) to clean up language in the original statute that made the board partisan, required the full Guilford County Republican executive committee to nominate the person to fill the opening on the board within 30 days after the opening, which she designated to be Dec. 7 (the date of Tillman’s resignation).

But all correspondence from the county GOP, most recently on March 28, she displayed had said Logan, a teacher at 26-year teacher at Southern Guilford High School and vocal critic of the board, had been nominated by members of the executive committee from District 3.

Guilford County School Board attorney Jill Wilson leads the meeting through an interpretation of the new state law. (WGHP)

“If county committee members fail to nominate a person qualified in writing to the superintendent, within 30 days, the position may be filed by a majority vote of the [school] board members present at the next regular meeting,” Wilson said.

She said the most recent letter said that Logan was the choice of District 3 but that a district element “no longer was a component of appointment. The law requires an entire executive committee to appoint a replacement, not District 3.”

She said she had consulted with Robert Joyce of the UNC School of Government, the civic law expert who had assisted Hardister in drafting his new bill. “He said it was up to the board,” Wilson said.

That led to Small’s nomination and Goebel’s swearing-in. He said he was happy to join the board and willing to work with the group. “I want to do the best I can,” he said.

Emails sent to Logan and Guilford County Republican Chair Chris Meadows did not draw an immediate response. A text message to Hardister, who did not attend the meeting, didn’t get an immediate response.

None of the board members mentioned the process during their comments.

Public comments support Logan

But two speakers during public comments spoke in support of Logan. One said she was “appalled” at the way the board had treated Logan. “I have met Mr. Goebel a few times, and I like him. I guess the consolation is that we have a good man on the board. But Mr. Logan is a good man, too.”

Ken Arms of High Point said he was “disgusted” by what he said was the board’s failure to follow the law.

“It’s not your job to pick and choose which laws to follow or which board members to pick,” Arms said. “It’s time you stopped acting like prepubescent little children and assassinating the character of Michael Logan.”

He equated the Democrats on the board with racist Southern Democrats from the 1960s who racially blocked the school house doors and voted against the civil rights legislation and said it was time for “sanctimonious Democrats to come down off your high horse” and listen to a variety of perspectives.

GOP perspectives

“It’s been the position of the Guilford County GOP all along that Michael Logan should have been seated in early December when Patrick Tillman resigned the position and join the Guilford County Board of Commissioners,” Meadows said in an email to WGHP before the meeting. “Mr. Logan was duly elected per the rules of the NCGOP, Guilford GOP and, more importantly, the laws of the State of North Carolina. The current Democrat-led Guilford School Board have been breaking the law since December by not seating Mr. Logan.” 

For his part, Logan, who has been an automotive teacher in Guilford County since 1997, said that “it has always been my opinion that the board had a vote on the process, not the decision.

“Like: Did the district party follow the guidelines? Is the candidate qualified and are there any legal conflicts?

“I had the expectation of being placed since December. The district has been denied representation by the board’s actions.”

Correcting ‘errors’

State Rep. John Faircloth (R-High Point)
State Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitsett)

Hardister said his bill corrects “errors made by staff.” It’s a scant two paragraphs that address general statute GS 115c-37.1, which specifies how seats on partisan boards “shall” be filled. Hardister said that statute was undermined by language in the local bill that former state Sen. Trudy Wade (R-High Point) pushed through the General Assembly in 2013, when she decided the board should be partisan (a concept that not even Hardister fully supports).

Joyce had told Hardister that the statute in question required the board “must take a vote to accept the person put forward by the party executive committee.”

Deena Hayes at Guilford County Schools Board of Education meeting.

Hayes has suggested in a letter to the News & Record that the party “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.”

At issue among the six Democrats who have voted against Logan is a litany of issues they have had with the way Logan has conducted himself at meetings, on social media and in public comments.

Who is Goebel?

A release from Guilford County Schools said that Goebel is the CEO of MPACT Maintenance & Reliability Solutions, which provides assessments, education and training in industrial and facility maintenance, and serves as the area president of Focus CFO NC, which works to empower small businesses.

He was appointed by NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby to serve as an adviser to a task force on Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs)-Informed Courts. He also serves on the board of directors of Youth of North Carolina, Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina and is vice chair of the Boy Scouts of America National Service Territory 15.