Gov. Pat McCrory announced late Friday that he was replacing all members of the State Board of Elections as of Wednesday, just as an investigation into political contributions made to McCrory and other top Republicans’ officeholders’ campaigns is getting underway. Three Republicans, including Winston-Salem lawyer Paul Foley, and two Democrats will replace the current three-Democrat, two-Republican board. The board’s majority represents the governor’s party. The move puts the progress of the board’s investigation into campaign contributions from an indicted sweepstakes software company owner in question. Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, last week asked the board to investigate more than 60 campaign contributions totaling more than $230,000. Some of the contributions went to McCrory, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger.
A majority of sitting board members said they were interested in investigating, according to an Associated Press story. But on Friday night, Chairman Larry Leake said it would be inappropriate for members on their last day in office to talk about the investigation or give staff any direction. The board has a meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
“It might be presumptuous for us to attempt to do anything with a new board coming on May 1,” Leake said. “It makes no sense for our board to attempt to direct the conduct of our office when we are in fact exiting out the door.”
Gary Bartlett, the current executive director whose term ends May 15, said he supports Leake’s position. “I think that’s the right call because they are a lame-duck board,” he said.
As for the current inquiry led by staff, Bartlett said he expects the new board to allow it to continue. “I think that everyone would want due diligence done to determine what may or may not be right regarding that situation,” he said.
But Bartlett acknowledged the new board could provide its own direction and even quash the investigation.
“Certainly the board controls,” he said. Bartlett said he didn’t expect to be reappointed by the new board, but Leake said that would be “a great tragedy. … He’s recognized nationally as a leading authority in the area of elections.”