I have written a letter to the editor of "The Selma News". Hopefully, this will actually make it in time for the Thursday printing.
To the Editor,
I wanted to take the opportunity to first thank "The Selma News" for being the first news outlet in the area to break the story about the problems with candidate filings for the upcoming municipal elections. I had no idea some of the problems that had gone on with late filings until I read it in your paper. None of the larger newspapers, radio, or television outlets covered the story until after you ran the news. The only disappointment was that I had to wait almost a week to read the story and learn of it, since your publication is a weekly periodical. For a small town weekly paper, I am impressed with that. Thank you.
Since the story broke, I have had a few news outlets interview me as well as a few citizens discuss the matter with me. Since I am a candidate for the upcoming election, I did want to give a bit of perspective on the situation. I am not one of the candidates adversely affected by the missed deadline. Either way, I am affected by the validity of the late filings or lack thereof. So far, my opinion has been and continues to be the following. It would be rather self serving of me to be happy with the ruling by the Johnston County Board of Elections that the candidate filings are invalid. I personally understand the decision that was taken by the Board, but in all fairness disagree with the outcome.
It may be state law that the deadline for filing for election was Friday, August the 5th at noon. According to Mr. Gordon Woodruff, Chairman of the Johnston County Board of Elections, it is also state law that candidates are allowed to file for office at the local town hall. Mr. Charles Hester, Mr. Jimmy Earp, and Mr. Tommy Holmes all did legitimately file for candidacy in the respective races in good faith at the designated location by the aforementioned deadline.
All of these facts have been verified by the Town Manager, the Town Attorney, and the Board. I saw this in person at the hearing last Tuesday the 16th. Since the meeting started twenty-five minutes earlier than the announced time, no other candidates were present, nor any media except a reporter for "The Kenly News"/"The Selma News". As all "interested" parties were present, meaning the Town Manager, Jeff White and Town Attorney Chip Hewitt, as well as the Board members, the Chairman, Mr. Woodruff decided to call the meeting to order earlier than planned. A reporter from News 14 Carolina showed up before the announced noon hearing start time and was able to report on what was left of the hearing. News 14 only knew about the story because I contacted them myself and it was of interest to them. Another reporter from a cross town newspaper also arrived, but too late to catch the entire hearing. Mr. Jimmy Earp, the candidate who withdrew his candidacy after the problems with the filing, also was as interested as I was in the hearing and was able to attend. Unfortunately, he too, showed up on time for the announced schedule, but was late for the unexpected early start of the hearing.
The hearing was merely a formality, in my opinion. The Board's opinion was that they have "no authority to change deadlines" according to state law. The Board had already decided the outcome before the hearing took place. The Board, by the way, consisted of Mr. Woodruff, Ms. Lina Sanders Johnson, and Ms. Patricia Proctor. The Director of the Board of Elections, Teresa Davis, was also present. I realize that the State Board of Elections, in particular, Mr. Gary Bartlett, was giving counsel to the County Board. I understand that the interpretation of the law may be clear to lawyers like Mr. Woodruff. However, I must concur with the crux of the law suit being brought by the Town of Selma. Mr. Alan "Chip" Hewitt contends that the town effectively acted as an agent for the County Board of Elections in taking candidate filings, and that state law makes such provision for the town acting in that manner as prescribed by the County Board guidelines. I am in no way condemning Mr. Woodruff and the County Board. I am, however, a citizen to whom common sense tells me that the candidate filings by Misters Earp, Hester, and Holmes were all legitimately filed by the deadline at the prescribed location.
I have been following this story with great interest, since I am affected in one way or another by the outcome of the hearing and now court action by the town. As a candidate for Town Council myself, I can only sit by with slack jawed amazement. I have been chronicling all of this on my web site, vote4troy.com so that there will be no secrets about the story and different angles and opinions can be seen, in addition to my own. None of the news stories I have read and saved, however, have covered some of the details I have just shared with the readers of "The Selma News".
The next date of interest will be August the 29th for the court hearing. I have filed for a day off work (yes, within the deadline) so that I may also attend that hearing at Superior Court. I just hope that there will be no more problems with the election, all candidates will get a fair shot, and we will not have any "hanging chads" so to speak when all this has been said and done.
Candidate for Town Council