There are two candidates running for the job of Summerfield mayor – incumbent mayor Tim Sessoms and Linda Wendelken, the wife of the outspoken Don Wendelken, a former Guilford County Board of Elections member who publishes a town newspaper.
The Wendelken campaign has filed a complaint with the Guilford County Board of Elections – which sent it to the State Board of Elections – alleging that Sessoms violated campaign laws by using town resources to advance his campaign.
The complaint, which was signed by Don Wendelken, states that, “On October 27, 2023, Summerfield Mayor, Tim Sessoms, who is running for re-election posted a ‘Public Press Release’ on the Town of Summerfield Facebook page and on the Town of Summerfield’s website. Upon information and belief, the press release was coordinated between Mayor Sessoms and Summerfield Town Manager Scott Whitaker.”
According to the complaint, “The public press release was sent around 6 PM, the first day of early voting…The information released was Sessoms’ response to campaign issues in the Town of Summerfield. Upon information and belief, public resources (Summerfield’s Facebook and website) were used to benefit Tim Sessoms in his re-election bid for mayor.”
The complaint also alleges that Summerfield Town Manager Scott Whitaker was in violation of state law because he is a town employee who, the Wendelken’s claim, engaged in political activity meant to favor Sessoms.
Don Wendelken also argued in the complaint that the current town policy to post a press release requires a majority approval from the Summerfield Town Council and states the release was not approved by a majority of Summerfield Council members.
Elections Director Charlie Collicutt said: “Complaints concerning campaign finance violations are under the jurisdiction of the State Board of Elections, and investigative records, including the complaints, are to be treated as confidential” – so he could not comment on it.
The complaint was sent from the county elections office to the State Board of Elections.
Deputy General Counsel for the State Board of Elections Lindsey Wakely responded: “Your complaint alleges a misuse of city funds for partisan purposes. This represents a potential violation of G.S. 160A-169. The State Board of Elections does not have jurisdiction to investigate or enforce violations of G.S. 160A-169 … Since the allegations are not within the jurisdiction of the State Board of Elections, we cannot open an investigation into this matter.”
She continued, “I don’t believe there is any State-level entity that would have enforcement authority here. Normally, I would recommend contacting the city attorney or city manager.”
Don Wendelken, who has long been at odds with the town’s administration and the town’s attorneys, said he was quite taken aback by the response.
“Like, I am going to ask Summerfield’s attorney or the manager,” he said. “They are a major part of the problem.”
The Wendelken campaign is currently pursuing its options.