Another step just took place in the slow as molasses battle between Guilford County and former Summerfield Town Councilmember Todd Rotruck, who is fighting to regain that Town Council seat he lost two years ago. The Guilford County Board of Elections has filed its response with the NC Court of Appeals in the case.
The county’s brief addressing Rotruck’s appeal recounts the history of the case and includes a multitude of arguments why Guilford County believes Rotruck should not prevail on appeal.
In April 2017, the county’s Board of Elections listened to about three hours of testimony from both sides and then voted unanimously that Rotruck did not reside in Summerfield.
Janelle Robinson, a Summerfield citizen who challenged Rotruck’s residency in that town, told the board that the house Rotruck claimed as his residence was undergoing major renovation and was uninhabitable. Rotruck didn’t deny that his family had moved to Greensboro while the renovations were being completed, but he stated that he still lived in the Summerfield house and the family intended to move back once the renovations were completed in the summer of 2017. The elections board decided against Rotruck, as did Guilford County Superior Court, and Rotruck appealed that court decision.
The brief to the appellate court filed by Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne cites witness testimony, a private investigator’s report and documents such as utility bills. Payne states in the brief, “These facts lead to a very clear and inescapable conclusion.”
That conclusion, the brief said, was that, based on North Carolina law, Rotruck lived outside of Summerfield at the time of the hearing.
The appeal also includes additional information such as the fact that renovations on the Summerfield house were still not complete as of early 2019.
According to the county’s brief, the standard called for in North Carolina law is not for the Court of Appeals to substitute its judgment for that of Guilford County Superior Court – but, instead, to determine whether that court acted in an “arbitrary or capricious” manner, abused its power or committed an error of law.
The county argues that, “The Trial Court correctly concluded that the Guilford County Board of Elections decision is not arbitrary and capricious.”
The county’s brief states that a court decision can only be deemed arbitrary and capricious if it was “whimsical, made in bad faith, indicates a lack of fair consideration or fails to indicate any course of reasoning and the exercise of judgment.” It also states that the county’s Board of Elections decision in April 2017 was “supported by competent and substantial evidence.”
The brief also argues that the elections board hearing was properly conducted and that Rotruck was afforded due process and allowed to make his case in the proper legal way. That last point has been one, among many, that Rotruck and his attorney have contested.
Rotruck said this week that county has been attempting to delay the case. He said that, though it’s in everyone’s best interest to get the issue resolved as soon as possible, Payne took as long as he legally could to file the county’s response.
“Mark Payne is dragging his feet,” Rotruck said. “He waited until the last day to file.”