Even when the case of former Summerfield Town Councilmember Todd Rotruck is technically on hold, there’s still plenty of action going on.
Rotruck, who lost his seat on the Town Council in April after the Guilford County Board of Elections ruled that he wasn’t a resident of Summerfield, is appealing that decision, and the participants in the case initially expected it to be heard on Thursday, July 19. However, on Monday, July 16, when the parties met to finalize a time for the hearing, court scheduling issues and conflicting attorneys’ schedules meant the case couldn’t be heard on July 19 or anytime that week. It will now be August at the earliest before the case is heard.
Even though there was no hearing held, some drama arose after Janelle Robinson – the Summerfield citizen who filed the residency challenge against Rotruck – posted an accusation on Facebook that upset Rotruck and caused his attorney, Marsh Prause, with the Winston-Salem firm of Allman Spry, to contact Robinson’s attorney, Greensboro attorney Marshall Hurley, to get Robinson to “post a correction promptly to avoid further difficulties.”
Robinson and the Guilford County Board of Elections are both named in the appeal because Robinson filed the initial challenge and the Elections Board made the decision. Earlier this year, Robinson created a Go Fund Me webpage to raise the funds to pay her legal bill.
Her Facebook post that drew a strong reaction from Rotruck and Prause states, “Well, it looks like I will have a little more time to raise money for my attorney fees. Hoping to have the appeal heard later this week, Todd Rotruck and his attorney did not show up for court this morning when my attorney and the county attorney were there to request the hearing be scheduled on Thursday at 2 p.m… The judge didn’t seem happy, and continued the hearing to a later date (day/time to be determined).”
That post prompted a response from Prause, who sent the following email to Hurley: “A post your client made on social media that majorly misrepresents what happened in court yesterday has been brought to my attention by Mr. Rotruck and he is displeased about it. I’m not too happy about it either to the extent it suggests I was remiss in my responsibilities to the court.”
“Whatever her intentions,” Prause’ email continues, “you may want to suggest to her that she post a correction promptly to avoid further difficulties. As you know, Mr. Rotruck and I very much wanted … to proceed this week with argument on his appeal and cooperated with you toward that objective, and Mr. Rotruck was present in court yesterday.”
The email went on to say that he and his client are not happy with the delay, and pointed out that that was “so much so that I obtained an option for us to be heard sooner than planned … although unfortunately that was problematic for Mr. Payne [Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne] and for you.”
Payne said this week that it was his impression that the attorneys on both sides determined that Thursday, July 19 would be a mutually acceptable date for the case to be heard, but the two parties didn’t foresee that the date wouldn’t suit the trial administrator, so other options for that week were discussed but none worked out.
Rotruck’s efforts are part of an attempt to regain his seat – still vacant – on the Summerfield Town Council.
Payne said the appeal of the Board of Elections’ decision is a different matter than the question of whether the Town of Summerfield allows Rotruck to take the seat he once held until Robinson lodged her residency challenge against Rotruck.
Rotruck said he’s dismayed by the delay but added that he knows the wheels of justice turn slowly. He said he’s eager for his day in court.
“I understand why it takes forever and costs a ton of money,” Rotruck said of the current legal proceedings.
The appeal is now expected to be heard sometime after Monday, August 6. The next Summerfield Town Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 14.
Rotruck said that, in the meantime, the Town of Summerfield is “totally ignoring” the court’s previous order that the Board of Elections’ decision should have no present application until the appeal is heard.
Robinson’s Facebook post served an additional purpose as well – it directs readers to her crowd funding page. The first time around at least, Hurley was paid by someone else (or possibly did the work pro bono), but Hurley has declined to say who footed that bill for Robinson, if anyone did.
Robinson said earlier this year that she had spoken with Hurley about her initial challenge of Rotruck’s residency and found out it would be $5,000 for Hurley to handle that challenge, but then, a few days before the hearing, Hurley called her and said that she was not required to pay anything.
For the latest round in court, Robinson is attempting to raise $10,000.
Her post reads, “I am still a few thousand dollars short of the estimated $10,000 I will need to cover my attorney fees for defending me in the lawsuit Rotruck has filed jointly against me and the Guilford County Board of Elections,” she posted, “so if any of my Summerfield friends would be willing to help with this it would be much appreciated.”