The following statement by Jon Hardister can be found on his Facebook page.
Last night the Guilford County Board of Education rejected Michael Logan’s appointment that was sent forth by the Guilford Co Republican Party. This action was shocking and disappointing. It was my understanding, based on conversations that I had with Guilford County Schools staff, that the Board would be conducting a swearing-in ceremony for Mr. Logan. These conversations occurred after the NC General Assembly passed HB 88 – Omnibus Local Elections – which streamlined existing laws to make clear that the Board was compelled to seat the nominee of the applicable political party.
As a reminder, HB 88 removed the appointment process that the Board was intended (but refused) to follow and simply allowed the political party’s nominee to be sworn-in to office. This was done to avoid litigation, resolve the dispute, and streamline the process of filling vacancies on the Board.
Apparently, the Board’s attorney found what she believes is a loophole in the process, thus advising the Board not to allow Mr. Logan to be sworn-in, and further advising the Board to seat the nominee of their choice — which was Bill Goebel.
Let me state unequivocally that I had no idea that any of this was going to happen. I had intended to attend the Board meeting last night and conduct the swearing-in for Mr. Logan. Unfortunately, due to budget work in the NC General Assembly, I was unable to attend the meeting. I informed Mr. Logan of this ahead of time and he understood that I was unable to attend.
In addition, earlier in the day, I conferred with a GCS official and informed them that I would be unable to make it. I was told that a judge would be on site. It was my natural assumption that the judge would be present to conduct the swearing-in for Mr. Logan.
When I found out last night that the Board rejected Mr. Logan’s appointment and instead appointed Mr. Goebel, I was completely dismayed. Subsequently I learned about the Board attorney’s interpretation of the law and the ensuing drama that took place.
The Board’s attorney has cited what she believes is a discrepancy in how the Guilford County Republican Party sent forth Mr. Logan’s appointment. According to the attorney, the appointment was sent forth by members of the Party’s 3rd district committee, and not the executive committee in its entirety. Thus, she advised the board to reject the appointment and to appoint the nominee of their choice.
In my opinion, this is a cavalier interpretation of the law. The Party’s 3rd District committee operates under the auspices of the executive committee, and it was clear that Mr. Logan was the official choice of the Party. To reject his appointment on these grounds is, in my view, a gratuitous interpretation of the law. It is also an example of the Board operating in bad faith, as they clearly knew who the Party desired to nominate.
Attached to this email are two photos. One shows the original language of GS 115C-37.1, which highlights the words “executive committee” in subsection (b) of the statute. This is the long-standing statute that governs appointments to partisan local office vacancies (which the Board refused to follow). The other photo is of HB 88, the law that we recently passed to streamline the appointment process and allow the political party’s nominee to be sworn-in. As you can see, we used the same standardized language in the new legislation, as this is the long-standing practice for political parties to select a nominee for such a vacancy.
Apparently, the letter that the Guilford County Republican Party sent to the Board used the words “…within District 3” when referencing the appointment of Mr. Logan. These are the words that the Board’s attorney has seized upon as a pretext to reject the Party’s nominee and advise the Board to seat the nominee of their choice.
Based on these facts, it is my opinion that the legislation we passed is sound, consistent, and clear. The problem, in my view, is that the Board seized upon a questionable technicality and made a gratuitous interpretation in order to effectuate a desired outcome. It also appears that the Board did not confer with the Party regarding the executive committee’s intentions if that is something in which the Board was truly concerned about.
Furthermore, I am in the process of conferring with the Guilford County Republican Party – via current Chairman Chris Meadows and former Chairman David Gleeson – to obtain additional documentation, including minutes from executive committee meetings. I believe additional documents will likely affirm that the executive committee was in full support of Mr. Logan’s appointment. Any additional documentation to this effect will further undermine the actions of the Board.
At this time, I am processing the situation and speaking with party officials, legislative colleagues, legislative staff, and citizens. My objective is, and always has been, to ensure that the rule of law is followed and that cavalier interpretations of the law are not thwarting the intention of the legislature and subverting the rights of citizens. This should be the goal of all North Carolinians, regardless of political beliefs.
-Jon Hardister, April 5, 2023