State will consider removing Butner from elections board Thursday

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mac Butner has again come under fire for posts on social media. This time, Butner may be removed from office.

North Carolina’s State Board of Elections has scheduled a public hearing to consider Butner’s removal for 10 a.m. Thursday in its boardroom at 441 N. Harrington St. in Raleigh. A notice of the public hearing specifically states the state board will consider his removal for incompetency, neglect or failure to perform duties, fraud, or any other satisfactory cause.

Butner will be given a chance to speak during the public hearing, according to a notice of the meeting. State board members will also consider a packet of information that’s more than 90 pages. Much of the packet includes social media posts from when Butner served as chairman of the Rowan County Housing Board.

“Gee, they are all black,” he said in a 2014 post about the Moral Monday Movement. “I guess the white folk could not get off because they were too busy working being productive good citizens.”

Another Twitter post included in the packet and directed at celebrity Oprah Winfrey states: “Well you got your (Presidential Medal of Freedom) thanks to your black prez and a lot of white women. Can you ever do anything on your own?”

An investigation by Rowan County Commissioners in 2014 found that Butner wasn’t guilty of any sort of discrimination while serving as housing board chairman. He decided not to reapply when his housing board term expired in late 2014 after coming under fire for the racially tinged social media posts.

Earlier this year, the Rowan County Republican Party, through the state party, nominated Butner for a vacancy on the local board of elections. The State Board of Elections, which has the final say on all appointments, picked Butner, business owner Dave Collins and local attorney John Hudson to serve on the Rowan County board.

Rowan Republican Chairman Stephen Kidd said Butner’s appointment occurred because of a clerical error. Kidd declined to comment further at the time. However, State Board of Elections records show Butner’s name wasn’t part of the original list of names submitted for appointment.

In its original submission, the Rowan Republican Party only submitted two names — one fewer than the required amount. The state delayed action on Rowan appointments until its July 15 meeting. Then, on July 15, Butner’s name had been submitted with a No. 1 priority of the three recommended to the state board.

The state board’s packet of information for Thursday’s public hearing includes Butner’s application for the Rowan County Board of Elections, a resume and an oath of office. It also includes a 2014 memo from Josh Howard, state board chairman, about the relationship of social media “likes” and posts to statements of support for candidates. In the memo, Howard cites a 2013 U.S. Fourth Circuit Court case — Bland v. Roberts — where a judge equates Facebook likes to “displaying a political sign in one’s front yard.” Howard encourages local boards of elections to “review and give great weight” to the court opinion.

In the memo, Howard also states local board members may have to review previous social media posts and take action to cure any perception of bias.

In the packet, Facebook screenshots from July 30, 2015 — after Butner was appointed to the board — show he “likes” pages for Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-5, Rep. Richard Hudson, R-8, and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC.

Butner could not be reached on Monday for a comment on the upcoming public hearing.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.