Challenge to Lyerly’s candidacy continues
By Jessie Burchette
While Laura Lyerly doesn’t appear to be waging a campaign for a seat on the Rowan County of Board of Commissioners, the legal challenge to her candidacy is continuing.
On Wednesday, Salisbury attorney James “Pete” Hoffman appealed the State Board of Elections decision keeping Lyerly on the ballot.
Steven K. Griffith, an attorney Hoffman hired, filed the appeal in Wake County Superior Court.
Hoffman says Lyerly’s plea of guilty to embezzlement in 1998 makes her ineligible to run or hold public office under the N.C. Constitution.
Lyerly received a prayer for judgment ó a deferred sentence to the felony charge. The incident occurred while she was working a summer job at Kmart while a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Hoffman, a registered Democrat, contends that the prayer for judgment is equivalent to a conviction.
On July 25, the Rowan County Board of Elections ruled that a prayer for judgment does not constitute a conviction under state law.
On Aug. 22, the State Board of Elections upheld the county board’s decision.
The state board ruled that the county never received notice from the state that the voting or citizenship rights of Lyerly were revoked or suspended on or after the Oct. 20, 1998, court proceeding.
The state board concluded that Lyerly’s prayer for judgment continued was not an adjudication of guilt of a felony that would disqualify her from running or serving on the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
The filing to Wake County Superior Court cites various rulings by the N.C. Supreme Court contending that a guilty plea is equal to being adjudged guilty.
If Hoffman wins the appeal, one of the options sought is ordering a new election for the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
At the outset of the questions, District Attorney Bill Kenerly asked the N.C. Attorney General’s Office for an opinion on the prayer for judgment issue.
No opinion has been issued.
Hoffman has said this is not a personal attack on Lyerly but an effort to get the law clarified. He has vowed to take the issue to the N.C. Supreme Court if necessary.
At this point, it would be virtually impossible to remove Lyerly from the ballot, but the challenge also seeks to bar her from taking office in the event she is elected.
Lyerly took the challenge personally, claiming that Hoffman took the action because she considered hiring him for legal work but opted to hire another attorney.
At some point after Hoffman filed his protest to her candidacy, Lyerly called his office and left a message:
Lyerly did not attend either the local or state hearing on the challenge.