Seven-minute BOE meeting still sour
by Kellen Short
Disagreement still found its way into a seven-minute meeting of the Watauga County Board of Elections on Tuesday.
Board members could not find consensus on the minutes from the contentious meeting Aug. 12, for which dozens of residents turned out to oppose election changes proposed by Republican board members Luke Eggers and Bill Aceto.
Among the changes was a new one-stop early voting implementation plan that creates a single early voting site at the Watauga County Administration Building, eliminating one at the ASU Plemmons Student Union. Aceto and Eggers voted for the plan, while Democratic board member Kathleen Campbell voted against.
Campbell objected Tuesday to a notation in the minutes that the one-stop implementation plan "passed," arguing that general statutes require that the plan be adopted unanimously.
She read from G.S. 163-227.2(g), which states that if a county board cannot reach unanimity, a member or members may petition the State Board of Elections to adopt a plan. Both Eggers and Campbell have submitted plan proposals to the State Board of Elections for consideration.
Campbell moved to change the minutes to reflect the language in the statute, and it failed without a second. The minutes were approved 2-1, indicating that the early voting plan "passed."
"I'm a little paranoid now that we can't even pass the minutes without having controversy," Campbell said after the meeting.
The board also voted unanimously to approve a list of precinct officials nominated by the Democratic and Republican parties.
"It looks like we're going to have a great group of people," Elections Director Jane Ann Hodges said.
After the meeting, Campbell also raised concerns to a group of about 10 supporters and reporters that the minutes didn't reflect the full extent of her comments.
Hodges and Assistant Elections Director Donna Houck said after the meeting that Houck originally formed a lengthy set of minutes containing word-for-word objections raised by Campbell, intended for unofficial staff records. Houck also created a shorter synopsis that still mentions Campbell's concerns but does not quote them verbatim.
The staff then provided those draft synopsis minutes to Eggers at his request, and he recommended changes to some of the wording, Houck said.
A review of the draft and final synopsis minutes shows that Eggers' changes were primarily clarifying changes related to sentence structure and punctuation.
Additional sentences also were added to the draft minutes following an allegation from Campbell that Eggers and Aceto had violated the open meetings law.
"Member Aceto stated that he and Member Eggers had not consulted together in any manner which would violate the open meetings law," the revised minutes state. "Member Eggers stated to Member Campbell that it was not appropriate for the Board Members to email between each other, as that would be a violation of the open meetings law."
The revised synopsis was the version approved 2-1 Tuesday.
"We got the truncated version of the minutes that contained none of my objections," Campbell said after the meeting.
She said she would attempt to have her complete comments saved in the record of the meeting.