GOP meeting on sheriff stirs dissent
A planned meeting of the Rowan County Republican Executive Committee Saturday morning is running into a few potholes.
The committee is set to select a nominee to fill the post vacated by Sheriff George Wilhelm. By state law, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners will fill the vacancy.
County Attorney Jay Dees is advising county commissioners to stay away ó if the meeting is closed to the public and press.
And a longtime Republican activist is telling the committee to stay out of the process.
Four sitting commissioners ó Chairman Carl Ford, Vice Chairman Jon Barber, Chad Mitchell and Tina Hall ó who converted to the Republican party last month ó are also members of the executive committee as elected office holders.
Dees sent an e-mail to commissioners Thursday night advising them that in normal circumstances, it would be OK for them to attend a meeting that is closed to the public and press.
But Dees wrote that since commissioners will have the final say on who fills the seat, he would advise against attending the meeting if it’s held in closed session. He wrote that it would open up the board to a challenge based on the state’s Open Meetings Laws.
“This could be considered ‘conducting business’ as defined in the N.C. General Statutes, even though there is a separate and distinct decision to be made afterward.
“… I would advise that commissioners not participate in the meeting,” Dees wrote.
And a longtime Republican activist Mac Butner has sent an e-mail to executive committee members calling for the meeting to be cancelled.
Butner pointed out that commissioners have not asked for a recommendation.
Butner wrote that to go forward with the meeting “will not only be presumptuous, but borders on arrogance and disrespect toward our GOP county commissioners. It is their responsibility, not the executive committee, to select a replacement.”
Butner also noted the committee has no legal standing to make a recommendation as it would if a legislative seat were being filled, as in the case of the late Rep. Eugene McCombs.
Butner also charged the meeting is “blatantly unfair” since there are several serious candidates for sheriff and all should be given an equal opportunity to introduce themselves to the committee and be given fair consideration.
“This meeting will serve only to start a division that will that will only help the opposition party in their 2010 efforts to regain the office of sheriff,” he wrote.
Wilhelm, who stepped down Nov. 30, recommended Chief Deputy Kevin Auten be appointed.
Tony Yon, chairman of the executive committee, and a deputy in Davidson County, is seeking the appointment. Yon ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination four years ago.
The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday in the J. Newton Cohen Administrative Offices Building, 130 W. Innes St.
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