Many calling for BOE chair, director to step down

August 6, 2010 8:45:38 PM PDT
There is a renewed call for the resignation of the chairman and the executive director of the North Carolina Board of Elections.Some say the board's credibility has taken a huge hit since the people at the center of the most negative allegations are the people who should be in charge of fixing the situation.

"Job one for the Board of Elections right now is to try to restore their reputation," said Democratic strategist turned watchdog, Joe Sinsheimer.

Sinsheimer says he has been watching things unravel at the Board of Elections for months.

"We've got the board, being accused of major partisanship," he said.

The most serious of the accusations is that the chairman of the board, Larry Leake and its Executive Director Gary Bartlett, interfered with the agency's own investigation into campaign flights taken by Governor Bev Perdue.

The lead investigator says Leake and Bartlett wouldn't let her interview certain people and her draft report was meaningfully changed before it was released to the public.

Then when ABC11 Eyewitness News made an open records request, it was stalled for a month. Bartlett said at the time it was because "it would chill the investigation."

But lawyers say that wasn't a legitimate reason.

And on Thursday, the board was accused of allowing a monopoly-like arrangement with a voting machine vendor and of having a cozy relationship with that vendor's sole-subcontractor.

"I think the state board should re-examine what they're doing," Sen. Richard Stevens said.

The head of the Republican Party, Tom Fetzer, says he thinks it's an agency plagued by scandal and something needs to be done.

"The Board of Elections has become a cesspool of corruption and incompetence and that cesspool needs to be drained and cleaned," he said.

Bill Peaslee, one of the two Republicans on the Board of Elections, says he expects to get answers during a board meeting at the end of the month.

"There are a lot of questions that haven't been answered yet and hopefully we'll have them at the upcoming board meeting," Peaslee said.

Sinsheimer says the outcome of the meeting could determine the future of the board itself.

"A 3-2 vote by the BOE would be disastrous for their reputation and it would really mean the end of the state Board of Elections because the board's actions would always be viewed through a partisan lens," Sinsheimer said.

Meanwhile three weeks ago, Leake invited ABC11 to his hometown of Ashville to do a sit down interview, but since then he has not returned any phone calls.

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