On Tuesday, May 10, former Guilford County Commissioner Alan Branson said he had little hope that county and state elections officials would address his concerns sufficiently, and he added that it appears he may have to take the matter to court.
On Wednesday, April 27, Greensboro Attorney Chuck Winfree – on behalf of Branson who’s seeking the at-large seat on the Board of Commissioners this year – filed a request for an investigation with the Guilford County Board of Elections alleging the illegal use of taxpayer money by Guilford County to promote the passage of a school bond referendum.
Branson said it’s crystal clear that Guilford County is currently in violation of state statutes because North Carolina law forbids a local government from using taxpayer funds to promote ballot initiatives such as the $1.7 billion school bond referendum on the May 17 primary ballot.
Branson’s complaint points to the overwhelmingly positive treatment of the issue on the county’s website as one obvious violation. Another violation, he claims, was a mailer funded with taxpayer money that he said was clearly an attempt to get votes for the referendum.
He said the information the county provides emphasizes all the benefits of spending the money but downplays things like the fact that the $1.7 billion bond referendum would mean about $800 million in interest payments for county taxpayers.
The Guilford County Board of Elections met to discuss the complaint, but board members didn’t believe it was the right body to investigate the allegations and they sent Branson’s complaint on to the State Board of Elections.
Branson said this week that other concerned county residents were getting involved. He said a legal battle would be expensive but he felt it was an important fight that many people would support. He also said that he had spoken with other elected officials about his concerns and gotten very positive feedback.
Branson said on May 10 that he was attempting to finalize some details on a plan to fight the county’s promotion of the bond referendum and he added that he may have more to announce shortly.
“It looks like it will end up in court,” he said.
The county and Guilford County Schools are allowed by law to provide information about the bond referendum or other ballot initiatives, but the presentation of the information must by law be even-handed and non-promotional.
Branson, who was one of the most conservative members of the Board of Commissioners when he served as the District 4 commissioner from 2012 to 2020, said many people he had spoken with were appalled at the audacious way the county has been promoting the bond referendum using money it collected from property taxes and sales taxes.