Republican Guilford County Board of Education Members Crissy Pratt and Linda Welborn – along with the man selected by the Guilford County Republican Party to fill a vacancy on that board – are suing the seven other members of the school board, including new District 3 member Bill Goebel who filled that seat.
The lawsuit, which will be heard first in Guilford County Superior Court, seeks a remedy of removing Goebel from that District 3 seat and replacing him with Michael Logan, the teacher selected by the local Republican Party to fill the vacancy.
The suit brought by the three claims that the Democratic board members violated North Carolina’s open meetings law when they planned a bombshell surprise in early April that kept Logan out of the seat and hurriedly put Goebel in the seat, with no one other than the participants in the plot knowing ahead of time what was going to transpire.
The stunning move by the Democrats angered Republicans across the county – and a fuming and very vocal Logan had to be removed from the meeting by a police officer.
The vacancy was created last November when former District 3 school board member Pat Tillman was elected as that district’s county commissioner.
Though Goebel is a registered Republican, many Republican Party leaders question his party allegiance – especially since he went along with the secret plan that gave him the District 3 school board seat. He has since been reprimanded by the local Republican Party.
The claim at the center of the lawsuit is that the Democratic board members in on the plot did not adhere to state open meetings law. The details of Goebel’s appointment to the board were finalized in a meeting behind closed doors at a private law firm when school board Chairman Deena Hayes and school board attorney Jill Wilson met with Goebel hours before the Democratic members appointed him to the board.
Wilson, though acting as the entire board’s attorney, did not inform the two Republican members of the plan. Under North Carolina law, telephone communication can qualify as a meeting, and the plaintiffs argue that, due to phone calls made at that time, an illegal meeting took place without them or the public being notified. All meetings of school boards in the state must be properly noticed.
Earlier this year, the fight over the seat broke out over the District 3 vacancy because Democrats on the board refused to seat Logan, the Republican Party’s selection. Some legal experts argue that the board was legally required to seat Logan. Even after state legislators passed a law clearly meant to force the board to appoint Logan, the board refused and appointed Goebel.