On Wednesday, July 20, the written order from Superior Court Judge Norlan Graves – as expected – denied a motion brought by former Guilford County Commissioner Alan Branson to stay the certification of Guilford County’s $1.7 billion school bond referendum.
However, the judge’s order also stated that Guilford County and Guilford County Schools may have acted improperly in the effort to lead voters to support the giant bond.
Branson’s complaint, which went first to the Guilford County Board of Elections, then the NC State Board of Elections and then superior court, argued that Guilford County and the school system illegally used taxpayer dollars to promote passage of the referendum – largely by providing glowing descriptions of the good the bond will do without really addressing the costs.
Judge Graves decided against Branson’s effort to halt the certification of the vote on the bond, but found “that the activities of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners and the Guilford County Schools may have improperly caused voters to vote in favor of the bond at issue.”
Graves did not, however, believe that those improprieties changed the outcome of the election – which was a key factor in the decision.
Guilford County Board of Elections officials said recently that, in decisions of this type, the essential matter that determines cases is whether the outcome of the election would have been changed. In May, the school bonds passed with 61 percent of the vote to 39 percent votes against.
Branson said after the written order was released that he and his legal team had been “fighting the good fight for the taxpayers of Guilford County,”
He said the fact that the judge indicated the schools and county may have acted improperly demonstrates exactly why he filed this protest.
“I fully believe wrongdoing occurred here,” Branson said, adding, “I pray that this protest has brought attention to the issue and serves as a warning to local governments that their citizens are paying attention.”
Branson said that, while he was unable to stop the certification of this bond referendum, in the future he expects Guilford County and other local governments to be less likely to break the law by using taxpayer money to promote various bond issues.