Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory has appointed a new five-member State Board of Elections, who will inherit a nascent investigation into possibly illegal campaign donations to the governor and other top state leaders.
The Governor's Office announced the appointments late Friday afternoon. Kim Genardo, McCrory's communications director, said that the appointees were officially informed of their appointments earlier in the afternoon.
The last meeting of the current State Board of Elections is scheduled for Tuesday, the group's last day in office.
It is likely that the old board will vote to carry forward a campaign finance investigation regarding donations to more than 60 campaigns by indicted sweepstakes software provider Chase Burns of Oklahoma. That investigation would be in response to a complaint sworn out by Democracy North Carolina, the same group that filed a campaign finance complaint that led to the conviction of former House Speaker Jim Black.
The Associated Press recently reported that most of the $235,000 in checks from Burns were delivered to candidates by Moore & Van Allen, a Charlotte law and lobbying firm where McCrory worked until just days before he was sworn into office in January. Donations from Brooks also went to top legislative leaders, including House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.
Genardo said that McCrory had "no concern at all" about the investigation and that the state board was an independent panel once it was seated.
Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, said the appointments didn't raise any immediate red flags.
"It would have been better if he (McCrory) had kept one of the Republicans," Hall said, singling out Chuck Winfree, a long-serving Greensboro Republican who has sometimes clashed with the Democratic majority but is respected by both sides. "He knows the law and was very independent."
The governor makes appointments upon the nomination of Democratic and Republican party chairmen. Generally, the governor takes the top choices offered by those organizations. A spokesman for the North Carolina Democratic Party said that McCrory appointed the Democrats' top two choices.
Winfree was not immediately available to comment. A phone call to a Republican Party spokesman wasn't immediately returned Friday night.
Hall said that the new board would raise a concern only if they glossed over the questions raised by the Brooks donations.
"If they try to clamp down on this investigation, that would set off alarms," Hall said.
If legislation mandating that all voters show photo identification at the polls passes, as is expected, the new board will also be responsible for managing the implementation of that requirement.
Under state law, the chairmen of the state Republican and Democratic parties submit five names each to the governor. The governor may appoint three from one party and two from the other. By tradition and practice, but not law, the majority comes from the sitting governor's party. Once they have met and organize themselves, the board will appoint an executive director to a four-year term.
Genardo said she did not know if McCrory had expressed a preference for who might be chairman of the new board or serve as executive director.
According to a news release, the three Republican appointees are:
- Josh Howard of Wake County: Howard is a founding member of the law firm Gammon, Howard & Zeszotarski. Howard has served as counsel and chief ethics officer for RTI International, as well as deputy criminal chief for economic crime for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
- Paul J. Foley of Forsyth County: Foley is currently an associate for the law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton. He has served as an associate for several other firms.
- Rhonda K. Amoroso of New Hanover County: Amoroso recently served as chairwoman of the New Hanover County Republican Party. She has also served as vice chairwoman of the executive committee in charge of election operations. Amoroso was an associate at several New York law firms before being appointed to the New York State Freshwater Wetlands Appeals Board.
The Democratic appointees are:
- Joshua D. Malcolm of Robeson County: Malcolm is the current chair of the Robeson County Board of Elections. Malcolm has served on the board for the past six years. He also served as the general counsel for the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Prior to his time at UNC-Pembroke, Malcolm served as assistant general counsel at Fayetteville State University.
- Maja Kricker of Chatham County: Kricker serves as chairwoman of the Chatham County Board of Elections. She has served on the board for six years. Kricker is also the owner of GeneLights Productions, a molecular media company, and previously worked as a computational biologist for Paradigm Genetics.
It is unsurprising that Larry Leake of Asheville, the current board chairman, was not reappointed. Legislative leaders had targeted him in a bill that remakes state boards and commissions by making him ineligible to continue serving even as an ordinary member. That bill is hung up in disagreements between the state House and Senate, but lawmakers clearly intend to force him off the board.