By Charlotte Smith
Bladen County Democratic Chairperson, Larry Hayes requested the emails of the two Republican Bladen County Board of Elections members in reference to N. Carolina General Statue 132-6(a). The incoming and outgoing emails from the personal email accounts of both Republican board members Emery White and Michael Aycock.
The Public Records Request (PRR) submitted by Chairman Hayes asked for emails from January 1, 2019 until present were requested on January 28, 2020.
The two Republican Board members first learned about the request from an email sent by Louella P. Thompson, Chairperson of Bladen County Board of Elections. “It has been brought to my attention that board members have been asked to submit all incoming and outgoing emails for the purpose of public records. Please be advised that we adhere to this request expeditiously without any violations.” Thompson stated in the email. She added, “No emails are to be deleted or tampered with.”
The two members are seeking legal counsel in regards to the case.
Aycock nor White were serving on the Bladen County Board of Elections in January 2019. White was sworn into office on April 25, 2019 and Aycock was sworn in on July 24, 2019. Therefore, the request made by Chairman Hayes for emails dating back to January 2019 are invalid and not relevant according to the NC General Statute.
According to Attorney Allen Johnson with Johnson & Johnson Attorneys at Law, P.L.L.C., if the personal email was made or received in connection to the transaction of public business between the Board of Elections and that sitting board member, then those personal emails are subject to the PRR.
BladenOnline.com reached out to Chairperson Hayes and asked why he requested the emails. He said, “I have no comment at this time about the matter.” When asked if the PRR request had anything to do with the recent board of elections meeting and the Pledge of Allegiance issue he said, “I told you, I have no comment.”
The North Carolina law Chairman Hayes’ quoted in submitting his PRR says, “Every custodian of public records shall permit any record in the custodian’s custody to be inspected and examined at reasonable times and under reasonable supervision by any person, and shall, as promptly as possible, furnish copies thereof upon payment of any fees as may be prescribed by law.”
Attorney Johnson explained, Aycock and White would need to submit any emails dealing with county business to him for review. If Johnson deems the email fits the criteria needed under the PRR statue then Johnson will release those emails to Chairman Hayes.
Bladen County Information Technology Director, Robin Hewitt is retrieving the emails from the server to be submitted to Attorney Johnson. The PRR request costs to the County of Bladen involving legal fees and employee work hours are unknown at this time.
Chairman Hayes will have to pay a minimal fee for the copies, but will not have to pay the County of Bladen for the legal fees or the employee work hours involved in the PRR request.
View the request submitted here: Bladen County Board of Elections Public Records RequestShare: