06/01/12 — Elections board delays decision; member absent

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Elections board delays decision; member absent

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 1, 2012 1:46 PM

The Wayne County Board of Elections recessed its meeting this morning for the second time this week without any public comment about its closed-door deliberations that might involve county Elections Director Vickie Reed.

Republican board member Hal Keck was not present. Telephoned at home, Keck told The News-Argus that he was sick and unable to attend.

Chairman Joe Lofton and member Chris Gurley, both Democrats, met in closed session for about 20 minutes with County Attorney Borden Parker.

Parker briefly conversed with Ms. Reed prior to the closed session.

"We have not had the meeting as discussed because we do not have a full board," Lofton said following the closed session. "We prefer to have a full board when we conduct the meeting. Because of that we are going to have to recess again until June 6 at 8:30 a.m. at the same place."

The full board met in closed session for two hours Tuesday in the Wayne County commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex before recessing the meeting until today.

Lofton this morning once again declined comment on what was discussed, saying it is a personnel matter. He has not said whether or not Ms. Reed, who has served as county elections director since January 2008, is the subject of the closed sessions.

Ms. Reed did not attend either of the closed meetings and sat in the commissioners' room surrounded by her office staff. Also in the audience this morning was Stephanie Kornegay, chairman of the county's Democratic Party.

The meetings come just days after the board received a letter from state Board of Elections Director Gary Bartlett who called into question statements Ms. Reed made in a May 16 deposition for the Dickson v. Rucho civil lawsuit in which voters challenged the General Assembly's statewide redistricting.

Bartlett, who attended the Tuesday closed session, was critical of Ms. Reed's understanding of her job, and said that Ms. Reed should direct any concerns to him if she feels that the state staff and/or training and information provided to her by the state office is lacking.

"Or perhaps you should seek other career opportunities," Bartlett wrote.

Bartlett denied that the issue was partisan. Ms. Reed is registered as unaffiliated. It was incorrectly reported in a previous story that she was a registered Republican.

"There is no partisanship," Bartlett said Tuesday. "This is just an elections matter. The state is doing its job to try to get the county in a position to do their job as they should. There is nothing to do with politics or partisanship."

Bartlett said the Attorney General's Office had raised concerns about the deposition -- the only one that was singled out.

Ms. Reed responded to Bartlett's letter with her own letter dated May 24 in which she blamed the controversy on her failure to catch and amend statements in the deposition before signing off on the document.

"It has become clear to me that what I meant and what I said are two different things and I now understand why I received the letter and why you stated what you did," she wrote to Bartlett.

Ms. Reed also disputed Bartlett's claim that she is not familiar with the election process and needs more training.

She said she did not know what aspects of the elections process Bartlett was referring to. Also, she noted that in January she had passed a state elections certification test.