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Elections Director Beam resigns

SARAH LOWERY
Staff Writer

A shift in leadership is underway at the Lincoln County Board of Elections Office, less than two months before the Nov. 5municipal election.
Elections Director Bill C. Beam announced his resignation, effective Sept. 24, last week, he confirmed Tuesday.
The decision came after a majority of the local Board of Elections filed a petition with the North Carolina Board of Elections for his termination on July 19, which was ultimately denied due to insufficient evidence of any wrongdoing.
Two members of the three-member board, including Republicans Wayne Mitchem, chairman, and Charles Newman, secretary, signed the petition. Member Marsha Jordan, a Democrat, did not.
The petition stated that Beam had allowed instructions within the Lincoln County Board of Elections Precinct Officials Training Manual 2012, deemed to be in “direct conflict” with a state administrative code, to be followed during “multiple general elections without attempting to make any corrections.”
The claims were geared specifically to a regulation regarding who may receive assistance when voting for reasons of disability, blindness or illiteracy.
In response to the termination petition, Beam wrote a letter, dated July 30, rebutting the allegations to State Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Strach. In it, he stated that if the local Elections Board saw the need to alter or clarify the portion of the manual in question, that easily could be done.
“Due to the brevity of the allegation, I find nothing in the petition that would warrant a justification of termination of employment,” he wrote. “ …While serving as director of elections for over two years, I have had a tremendous learning experience. During this time, I oversaw four elections, including the presidential election of 2012, without issues.”
Strach appears to agree. She refused the petition on Aug. 19, noting in a letter that the termination would be “unduly severe,” given that no evidence was provided to show any harm was done to the electoral process or to indicate that Beam had any cause to believe that the disputed wording would deprive assistance to a voter or give assistance to one who did not need it.
She further explained that the wording likely stemmed from guidance Beam had received from a former executive director of the State Elections Board and recommended it be edited or rewritten to the satisfaction of the local board.
“I urge the Lincoln County Board of Elections to discuss concerns that they may have with the director in such a manner that will clearly state perceived problems, determine corrective action and move forward in a positive approach for improving the ability of the director and all affected employees to perform and to know the expectations of the board,” she wrote.
Nonetheless, Beam said he has decided to step down and pursue “other business interests.”
“It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve the voters of Lincoln County,” he said. “I wish them well in the future.”
He additionally noted that he would continue to remain active in the community.
The local Board of Elections, which does not have the authority to fire a director, proceeded with the petition within days of being sworn in. The new members were appointed by the State Board of Elections at the end of June.
They serve two-year terms and are selected in odd-numbered years. Due to the change in state leadership, the new board gets a Republican majority.

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