Dispute over candidacy may go to State Board of Elections
By Jessie Burchette
A protest over the candidacy of a Democratic candidate for the Rowan County Board of Commissioners may now go to the State Board of Elections.
During a special meeting Friday morning, the Rowan County Board of Elections dismissed the protest against the candidacy of Laura Lyerly.
In the May 6 primary, the 29-year-old Salisbury resident won one of two spots on the Democratic ballot.Salisbury attorney James “Pete” Hoffman filed the protest, contending that Lyerly’s 1998 plea of guilty to embezzlement makes her ineligible to run for or hold public office under the state constitution.
Hoffman cited various court cases, contending that a plea of guilty is equivalent to a conviction.
Lyerly received a prayer for judgment continued after entering a plea of guilty to embezzlement from Kmart, where she had a summer job while attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.Lyerly did not attend the hearing. Her attorney, Dick Huffman, said she planned to attend but got caught in a huge traffic jam on an interstate in western North Carolina.Huffman cited the state’s Criminal Procedural Act: “Judgment is entered when sentence is pronounced. Prayer for judgment continued upon payment of costs, without more, does not constitute the entry of a judgment.”
Huffman also praised his client for being honest and forthright in publicly disclosing her mistake during a political forum.While running for the Salisbury City Council, Lyerly admitted she had shoplifted from her employer and that she regretted doing so.Board member John Steele said he had always heard that prayer for judgment is not a conviction. He recalled his high school days, when a friend got a ticket for speeding. Steele said the friend got a walk, no points off his license and no points on his insurance.
Responding to questions, Nancy Evans, elections director, said the courts office never put Lyerly on the felony conviction list to be removed as a voter. Steele offered a motion to dismiss the protest and was joined by board member Jonnette Powell.Chairman John Hudson agreed but didn’t vote since there wasn’t a tie.
County Attorney Jay Dees, acting as the board’s attorney, said he will serve Hoffman with a written notice of the decision.He has 24 hours to file notice of appeal to the State Board of Elections once he receives the written notice.
Hudson said the state board will likely move quickly to deal with the protest.