Two Buncombe County residents have filed a formal complaint with the North Carolina State Board of Elections, alleging that Rep. Wilma Sherrill (R-Buncombe), who is seeking re-election, is constitutionally ineligible to hold office. The state constitution forbids elected officials from concurrently holding a second elective office, as well as most appointed positions at the local, state or federal level.
Kyle Evan Cogburn and Elias Admassu filed the complaint on Aug. 25.
The complaint states, in part: “Sherrill is in clear violation of Article VI, Section 9 (regarding Dual Office Holding) of the North Carolina Constitution. Prior to 10 March 2004, she was appointed a Public Interest Director of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta by President Bush (see Asheville Citizen-Times, 3/10/2004, ‘Bush Names Sherrill a Director of SE Bank’). Insofar as this is not only a political appointment, but also an ‘office or place of public trust or profit under the United States,’ Representative Sherrill is in violation of both the spirit and the letter of a constitutional provision designed to preclude conflicts of interest among our elected officials.”
The Federal Home Loan Bank is a private bank chartered by Congress to fund low-cost loans to mortgage lenders. The president (or members of his administration) appoint some of the bank’s directors.
Quoting the state constitution, the complainants note, “If any person presumes to hold any office, or place of trust or profit, or is elected to a seat in either house of the General Assembly, contrary to Article VI, Sec. 9 of the North Carolina Constitution, he shall forfeit all rights and emoluments incident thereto.”
Executive Director Gary O. Bartlett of the State Board of Elections told Xpress that Sherrill is a qualified candidate, and it’s up to the General Assembly whether or not she may serve if re-elected.
Information Officer Noel Talley of the state attorney general’s office referred Xpress to the agency’s Web site. In multiple legal opinions posted there, it appears that the attorney general has consistently held that the state constitution forbids holding dual offices.
Asked about the matter, Sherrill said, “You will need to talk to my lawyer, Robert B. Long.”
For his part, Long offered the opinion that since the position of Federal Home Loan Bank director is not a federal-government job, the constitutional rule does not apply.