Attorney takes challenge of Lyerly’s candidacy to state
By Jessie Burchette
The State Board of Elections will decide whether Laura Lyerly will remain on the Nov. 4 ballot as a candidate for the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
On Tuesday, James “Pete” Hoffman filed an appeal with the State Board of Elections.
On Friday, the Rowan County Board of Elections dismissed Hoffman’s initial protest.
A Salisbury attorney and registered Democrat, Hoffman contends that Lyerly’s plea of guilty to embezzlement in 1998 makes her ineligible to hold public office.
Lyerly entered a guilty plea to embezzlement from Kmart and received a prayer for judgment continued ó a deferred sentence.
Lyerly, 29, of 8655 U.S. 601, has previously explained that the incident occurred while she was working a summer job and enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She said she regrets what happened, but contends she has a right to be on the ballot.
During a probable cause hearing Friday, the county Board of Elections found that Lyerly’s prayer for judgment did not prohibit her from running for elected office under the N.C. Constitution.
In his appeal to the state, Hoffman wrote that the local board used the wrong standard of proof for a probable cause hearing and never allowed him time to respond to all “erroneous opinions expressed by the lay members of the board and the attorney representing Ms. Lyerly.”
He cited the case of State vs. Sidberry, in which he said the N.C. Supreme Court held that a “guilty plea in this particular case, a PJC, is equivalent to a conviction.”
Hoffman is asking the state board to remove Lyerly from the November ballot or that she be removed from office if she is elected and the matter is not concluded until after the election.
Hoffman cited all 13 candidates who were on the May ballot for county commissioner as those who might be affected by the protest.
In his letter to Larry Leake, chairman of the State Board of Elections, Hoffman seeks a full hearing.
Nearly two months ago, local officials asked the N.C. Attorney General to provide an opinion on the prayer for judgment issue. No opinion has been issued thus far.
John Hudson, chairman of the county Board of Elections, said he has not received the opinion and added that the local board is not bound by the Attorney General’s opinion.