I am outraged that the Pasquotank County Board of Elections neglected to take even the most basic steps to ensure the integrity, impartiality, morality, diversity and fairness in its supposedly independent vetting of its selection of the county elections director. The elections board has clearly provided opportunity for disagreement and controversy in its hiring practices.
The Daily Advance’s Wednesday, April 2, front page contains an article with the headline “Pasquotank elections director resigns.” The article stated that Director David Brown was resigning for a “better opportunity,” and that he was leaving the county in good standing.
The N.C. Department of Corrections fired Probation Officer Brown in 2012 for an extramarital affair and marijuana use. Judge A.B. Elkins in an Oct. 3, 2013, ruling upheld Brown’s termination for “unacceptable personal conduct.”
In an email, Brown said the Pasquotank Board of Elections knew about his past misconduct, and he called the matter a “dead horse.” The Pasquotank Board of Elections members at that time were William Skinner, Jimmy Ownley, and Michele Aydlett, the chairwoman, who has since been replaced with Ms. Bonnie Godfrey. Neither the email nor the TDA article mentioned whether or not any county official condemned Brown’s “extreme hypocrisy.”
Board member Skinner stated, according to The Daily Advance, the board had only “heard rumors” about Brown’s past and that Brown was not fully vetted due to time constraints. He said the board needed someone to quickly step in and plan elections last year.
There is no cogent or coherent vision for this reasoning. I condemn them and their rush to judgment in the most strenuous way.
Given missteps by the county board of elections and staff, I recommend seeking state legislation to scrap the board’s current authority for vetting county election staff and vest that responsibility with the State Board of Elections.
The present system of vetting used by the election board in Mr. Brown’s hiring seems to be predicated on concealment rather than disclosure. No one is ultimately held accountable for mishandling of the elections board hiring practices (vetting, experience, transparency, and contingency). If standards were in place, they evidently weren’t enforced. Feet can’t be held to the fire when there is no flame.
The Pasquotank County elections director and deputy director positions have always been filled by whites. The elections board has a second chance to change that by hiring an experienced African American as election director who will represent both the county’s minority community (who comprise 40 percent of the population and a majority of Elizabeth City’s population) and the community at large.
The America of today bears little resemblance to the country of 50 years ago. It is older and less white. Those two demographic trends will only accelerate over the next 50 years. The 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is approaching; the appointment of a minority election director is past due.
MELVIN JONESSFlbElizabeth City