Complaint: Hope Mills voters 'cheated' by candidate
Posted November 18, 2013
Hope Mills, N.C. — One of the newly elected members of the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners may be replaced before he can even take office.
Megan Larson petitioned the Cumberland County Board of Elections to hold a new election to replace Matt Hoerner, but they declined her request. Larson says voters were misled, since Hoerner had no intention of filling the role.
"I don’t know what his intent was, I just know the facts," Larson told the board Monday. "The facts are that he doesn’t live here. He lives in Korea, and he’s going to be there for the next three years.”
Larson said Hoerner, a defense contractor, took a job in Korea before early voting began. He was the fifth of five commissioners elected in the Nov. 5 election.
After his win, Hoerner emailed Mayor Jackie Warner to ask her to fill his seat.
Larson claims Hoerner entered the race only to manipulate the outcome. He denies that, pointing out that The Fayetteville Observer reported on his plan to leave the area a week before ballots were cast.
"With the informed electorate, I left the decision in their hands," Hoerner said.
He pointed out that, had he dropped out of the race, only five candidates would have been running for five open seats.
"The democratic process is meant to provide choice, and five candidates for five positions is not really a choice at all," he said.
The sixth person, ousted in the Nov. 5 vote, was former Commissioner Tonzie Collins, who was removed from his position in September after years of complaints from town employees accusing him of sexual harassment and intimidation.
Collins, who denied any wrongdoing, ran for re-election despite a vote by his fellow commissioners that stripped him of his office.
Larson, who said she had no connection to Collins, argued, "This was about the people of Hope Mills voting for candidates that were legitimately candidates, and I don't feel like he was. I feel like the people of Hope Mills have been cheated."
After the county Board of Elections voted 3-0 against Larson's request for a new election, she said she'd appeal to the State Board of Elections.
The town attorney said that, if Hoerner doesn't show up for the swearing-in and chooses not to serve, the four other commissioners have a right to appoint someone to his seat.