David Gleeson 336-525-7467
GOP REQUESTS INVESTIGATION OVER COUNTY GOVERNMENT’S ILLEGAL USE OF PUBLIC FUNDS
GREENSBORO, NC – April 27, 2022 – A former Guilford County commissioner, Republican Alan Branson, has requested a formal investigation of the Guilford County government, charging that it is illegally using public funds to convince voters to support a $1.7 billion bond referendum and tax increase referendum set to be voted upon May 17, 2022.
The request, filed Wednesday with the Guilford County Board of Elections, with copies to the County Attorney, the State Auditor, and the State Treasurer, alleges the county government is using public funds to disseminate biased information regarding the bond and its costs to the public, seeking an investigation into the matter.
For instance, in a mailing to an unknown number of voters, a copy of which is attached to the complaint, the school board claims that the bond will be paid for with a .25 percent increase in the sales tax, which is to be offset by a drop in the county property tax rate. However, the board fails to mention that the tax rate will drop due to property revaluation scheduled for this year. (In March 2022, Guilford County home prices were up 17.8% compared to last year.)
The request continues, noting, “There is no discussion of the hundreds of millions of dollars that the County will be obligated to pay in interest and other costs associated with the issuance of the bonds.”
In addition to the mailings, county school principals have been instructed to hold mandatory meetings with school teachers and staff, the main purpose of which is to encourage or direct them to work for the passage of these two referenda, “regardless of their personal opinion on the merits of the bonds,” the complaint states.
“The above activities by Guilford County clearly violate N.C.G.S. 153A- 456, which flatly prohibits Guilford County from using county funds or assets to endorse a referendum,” the complaint alleges.
The $1.7 billion, if approved, would be in addition to a $300 million package that was approved by voters in 2020 for school upgrades, for a total of $2 billion.
But county taxpayers have been marshaling forces against the package, noting that the current school superintendent has announced she is leaving at the end of this school year, and five members of the current school board are up for reelection and facing very strong challenges. Thus a new board and superintendent could be saddled with a massive expenditure not of their making and possibly not with their support.
While Republican officials are supportive of upgrades to the county schools, Guildford GOP Chairman David Gleeson said, “The current proposed $1.7 billion Bond issue is ill-conceived and unwarranted. The Republican Party fully supports Alan Branson's complaint to investigate the misuse of taxpayers' dollars by the Guilford County School Board.” Gleeson added, “The current School Board has proven they are not good stewards of the taxpayers' money!”
The complaint also notes that the irregularities listed, “may affect the legitimacy of the bond referendum,” resulting in concerns that any bonds issued would be subject to collateral attack. Branson asks for the County’s Bond Counsel to review the enforceability of the bonds, under the circumstances.
Branson, who served on the Board of Commissioners from 2021 to 2020, is running for an at-large seat on the County Board of Commissioners.