District 4 Guilford County Commissioner Alan Branson is questioning whether his opponent in the recent election – Democrat Mary Beth Murphy – has a conflict of interest because she is a teacher for Guilford County Schools and the Guilford County Board of Commissioners makes decisions regarding school funding.
At the end of the vote counting on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Branson came up 18 votes short in his bid to win the District 4 seat for a third term. However, there are still mail-in votes and provisional votes to count in the race – as well as a coming recount.
At the Guilford County Board of Commissioners’ Thursday, Nov. 5 meeting, Branson raised his concern regarding a teacher both working in the county’s school system and serving on the board.
“I’ve had a question that’s lingered on my mind for many, many weeks,” Branson said during the part of the meeting when commissioners speak on any subject they wish. “How we can have a lady on the ballot who is currently employed with Guilford County Schools – where 50 percent of our budget, from the taxpayers, goes – serve on the Board of Commissioners without it being a conflict of interest.
Branson added, “I would love for Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne or some of his staff to feed me some information on this moving forward.”
Payne, who was at the meeting, didn’t speak on the matter.
When Payne was asked after the meeting if he had yet formed an opinion on that question he said, “The short answer is no.”
He said that there was some complexity to the situation.
There seems to be no question that Murphy can serve as a commissioner, however, it is possible that, if she’s ultimately declared the victor in the District 4 race, she might have to recuse herself from some votes that pertain to the schools.
In the past, commissioners have been instructed not to vote if they have a financial interest in the outcome of the vote.