PEMBROKE — More than 200 people have signed a petition aimed at having Sen. Danny Britt introduce legislation to recall the six Public Schools of Robeson County Board of Education members who voted to hire Thomas Graves as superintendent.
Britt does not believe such legislation would be prudent.
The organization calling itself Concerned Citizens of Robeson County, which is linked to the lawsuit against the same school board members, has started an online petition campaigning for Britt and other legislators to take action in Raleigh.
“It is clear that the six board members named in the pending action violated the law,” the petition states. “Other than pressuring these six board members to resign, we have no recourse. You, on the other hand, are in a position to do something about it. We are requesting that you introduce legislation making it possible recall board members.”
The school board and the plaintiffs agreed to dismiss that lawsuit Thursday. The dismissal and his own research informed Britt’s position on introducing legislation.
“In my reading of the statute, it does not seem as if they broke the law. Sometimes you can follow the law and still be doing what is not right. And I think everyone on both sides of this agrees that they made a bad decision in hiring (Graves) in that way,” said Britt, who is an attorney. “My position would be different if it was proven that the law was broken.”
Britt also discussed a possible ripple effect if precedent was set to recall elected officials who have not been shown to have broken the law.
“The next time a county commissioner makes a decision that is unpopular does he or she get recalled?” Britt said. “If you do a recall, when do you stop?”
Britt added that a recall would not have the effect he presumes most believe it would, being that the process would take several months and the resulting “election would cost the county even more money, that we don’t have.”
The Concerned Citizens group told The Robesonian that the political climate in Raleigh meant it was more likely that Britt, a freshman Republican, could take substantive action rather than his Democrat colleagues who represent Robeson County. The letter is addressed to Britt, but it also mentions Reps. Ken Goodman, Charles Graham, Brenda Jones and Garland Pierce, all of whom represent part of the county in the state House. Goodman, Graham and Pierce are all veteran Democrats, and Jones, like Britt, is a freshman Republican.
The letter and petition can be found at https://www.change.org/o/concerned_citizens_of_robeson_county
A similar course of action was discussed in Moore County in 2016 following the unpopular dismissal of Superintendent Robert Grimesey. There was a call for legislation then, but before any action could be taken the board reversed its decision and rehired Grimesey. Four school board members resigned and recall legislation was never filed.
In a lawsuit looking to block the hiring of a replacement for Grimesey, Rep. James Boles threatened to push a local bill to recall the school board members. A difference between the Moore County case and Robeson County was that the Robeson school board rescinded its decision to hire Graves without advertising the position, which violated its own policy.
Boles, who obtained a temporary injunction to block the board from hiring a replacement, suggested in court documents that Grimesey’s firing was based on personal animosity.
Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly