The giant school bond referendum that Guilford County voters approved in the May primary election narrowly escaped more scrutiny at a Tuesday, June 7 inquiry by the Guilford County Board of Elections.
The board had to decide whether the bonds passed with the help of illegal support from Guilford County government and Guilford County Schools.
Former Guilford County Commissioner Alan Branson, a conservative Republican who’s running this year for the at-large seat on the Board of Commissioners, recently filed a complaint with the county’s election board arguing that the bond referendum should not be certified as passing due to the concerns as to how public support for the referendum was obtained.
In the end, the Board of Elections, after about 45 minutes of deliberation, voted 3-to-2 along party lines that there was not “probable cause” and the complaint should not move forward to a hearing phase.
The three Democrats on the board voted against moving forward, but that narrow outcome can’t stop Branson from filing an appeal with the NC Board of Elections in Raleigh. Just hours after the defeat of his initial complaint Tuesday, Branson said he was discussing matters with his legal advisors and he added that, right now, it did appear as though an appeal to the state board would be the next logical step in the process.
Branson also has the option of taking the matter to court.
Guilford County and Guilford County Schools, as official entities, have a legal right to provide “information” to the public about bond referendums – however, they are forbidden by law from promoting passage of those referendums.
Many people may assume that there is no way something as huge as a $1.7 billion bond referendum could be halted in its tracks once passed, but the truth is that, for years and years, Guilford County officials, when it came to bond referendums that they wanted passed, have walked right up to the line – and sometimes over – of what constitutes providing the public with objective information. The practice dates back to the school bonds of 2008 and the jail bond that same year. Many times over the years, the Rhino Times has asked county officials how a certain very positive spin on bond information did not violate the rule against advocating for passage of a bond.
Though that has been the practice for much of this century, no one ever called them on it until Branson did so this year.
Branson said that, at the hearing this week, there was no real inquiry into the accusations his complaint contains.
The remedy he and his legal team seek is for the vote on the $1.7 billion bond to be deemed uncertifiable, since, the claim is, the passage in May was tainted and occurred with illegal support.
If his effort is successful, the bond would be placed on a future ballot for voters to weigh in on again.
Before the May primary election took place, Branson argued that the school system and county officials illegally supported the bond by doing things such as sending out mailers that were clearly attempting to persuade voters to approve the bonds, as well as posting highly positive information about the bonds on the county’s website while ignoring or downplaying the negatives – like the fact that county taxpayers would be paying back about $2.5 billion over the next 20 years when interest was factored in.
The special June 4 election meeting was supposed to be livestreamed on Zoom, however, about 10 minutes in, there was a glitch in the broadcast that prevented many if not all interested parties from watching the proceedings remotely.
Scott, you mentioned the jail bond in your article. In that instance, you and Skip were on the same team. Neither of you wanted a new jail built, even though we had over a crowded situations where 200 inmates a night were sleeping on the floor and the jail was on the verge of being taken over by the state. It was dangerous for the staff and prisoners. In that instance it was made vey clear by Skip and the county there would be no money expended to “educate” the public, that any money spent foe education about the need would be raised privately, which I did. Thanks to the help of responsible private citizens and yes, most of the media helping with educating the public thru articles, TV and jail tours the bond passed.
In the case of the recent school bond, students were bussed during school hours on school activity buses to vote for the bonds. A mailer was sent to each household pointing out the needs, but not the long term cost. Teachers were instructed to advocate for the bonds. Now some may think there was not any influence like getting out of class, extra credit for voting, keeping your job and avoiding the wrath of the school board in play. Some may think the end result justifies the cost of time , money and use of county resources, some may not. I’m in the may not category. I think it is in violation of fairness at the very least. Placing it in a primary where there is a lower voter turnout was calculated and intended to stack the deck. Some may see that as being appropriate, obviously the Elections Board did, along party lines.
the Parasitic Sector will do all it can to award itself more money!! It’s outrageous, it’s obscene, and it’s illegal.
In the real world (the Productive Sector) this is called a conflict of interest, and the beneficiary would be required to recuse themselves from the debate. But this is the constitutionally corrupt Public Sector, or Parasitic Sector, where anything goes (so long as they get more of our money).
Well done Alan Branson for challenging their corruption.
Western Guilford High School had an assembly with Juniors and Seniors to encourage voter registration. In addition, students were told if they want nice things for their schools, they must vote YES for the bond. My daughter was in that assembly and said it was all about pushing the bond. They were not educated about all sides of the issue. And then they bussed these same students to the polls. How is this legal?
A glitch in the broadcast….
I attended this hearing, and to state that I am very disappointed with the decision reached by the so-called “impartial” Guilford County Board of Elections is an understatement. The burden of proof was on Mr. Branson, and he and his legal team adequately proved that violations of law occurred. That threshold was exceedingly low as all of the parties agreed. Yet in a 3 (Democrat) to 2 (Republican) vote, the motion to find probable cause of illegal acts failed. Given that none of the Democrats understood the definition of the standard of proof that had to be met—there was about a ten minute discussion that the threshold was extremely low—it was very clear from the results that no matter what, no Democrat was going to vote for the motion. Unfortunately, I and others were left with the impression that another impartial institution has fallen by the wayside! Dare I question it, but is the County’s Board of Elections filled with partisan hackery? I encourage Mr. Branson to continue this fight!
I was able to watch the proceedings up until another engagement an hour into the meeting so the Zoom worked for at least one. I’d be interested to hear Branson’s idea for how to complete overdue maintenance in our schools if not bond spending. Our students are being educated in unsafe conditions. What is the remedy??
How about you use the Millions you already get?
To all those people who voted for the zillion-dollar bond bill; elected these socialists who have raised the property taxes by who-knows-what; I hope you remember that just because you rent your home or rent your place of business, that you thought you don’t pay property taxes. Wait until your lease expires, and you see your new rental rates.
Are you ready to move back home? Take on renters? That’s what all these taxes, bonds, and inflation is going to cost you.
Most all of us will be wiped out. We don’t have any rent, or any payments. We have some savings. The price of everything will force us out of our home, even more quickly when one of us checks out.
This is what our govt has (intentionally) done to us. This is your “free lunch”.