Local Politics

Wake commissioners elect vice chair after controversial chairman vote

Posted December 8, 2009
Updated December 9, 2009

— The Wake County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday elected Betty Lou Ward as vice chairwoman after denying her request for a re-vote for chairman.

Ward, a Democrat, and Republican Tony Gurley were deadlocked 3-3 in the race for chairman during a Monday meeting, with the vote split along party lines for several hours – the board meeting lasted past 2 a.m. Tuesday.

Wake County Commissioner Betty Lou Ward Ward upset by bathroom break vote

A seventh board member, Harold Webb, wasn't at the meeting because he is recovering from a stroke he suffered in October.

Gurley was eventually elected chairman when Republicans called for another vote after Ward left the meeting to go to the restroom. Officials considered her departure an unexcused break and continued to conduct business without her.

Ward on Wednesday called the vote "outrageous," but she wasn't able to convince other board members to hold another vote for chairman.

"I've been on this board 21 years, and I've never seen anything like that happen before," she said. "(It's) a matter of disrespecting someone. I think it's unfortunate."

She threatened legal action against the county but conceded after County Attorney Scott Warren said Gurley's election was legitimate. Warren said a re-vote was impossible since Gurley had already taken action as chairman.

"The bottom line is, this really makes us all look pretty stupid," Ward said.

Gurley defended his election on Wednesday.

"She left without permission. The attorney confirmed that," he said. "You've got to keep voting, and so we had no option other than to keep voting."

The vote for vice chairman was equally divisive Wednesday morning, with a 3-3 split along party lines between nominees Ward and Republican Paul Coble. Webb joined the meeting by phone and cast the deciding vote in favor of Ward.

The board went through 129 votes between Monday and Wednesday before settling its new leadership structure.

Gurley said he's looking forward to his leadership role and working with recently elected school board members who have vowed to dissolve the existing student assignment system, which tries to balance socio-economic diversity across the district, in favor of neighborhood schools and less busing.

"I'm in complete support of the policies they campaigned on and they were elected on," he said.


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  • jet2rdu Dec 10, 2009

    The Wake County Commissioner's favorite songs:
    Cry Me A River; Old Man River; Suwannee River; Red River Valley, Moon River and Over The River and Through The Woods.
    Ok, they are the favorites of "some" of the Commissioners.

  • dissatisifiedwitheverything Dec 10, 2009

    This was sneaky, underhanded, and shows no morals or respect.
    From now on, she should take care of her business on Gurley.

  • Tony Snark Dec 10, 2009

    The most disturbing aspect of this situation is that they planned this ahead of time.

    Yep, they met with counsel and asked if they could have a vote if someone left the room. They were told yes. The meeting was held to do just that! That was the intended purpose of this meeting. This is according to one of the new members, speaking in confidence.

  • Mean Old Mom Dec 9, 2009

    This kind of reminds me of the way the lottery was passed. A few congressmen were out and the vote was made so the lottery would pass. Sneaky, but legitimite.

  • whatelseisnew Dec 9, 2009

    "All taxpayers in Wake County should be most thankful this holiday season for Betty Lou Ward's bladder."

    I am, a true Christmas present would be her tendering her resignation. I so want her gone from that Commissioner seat.

  • tommys5 Dec 9, 2009

    The American Ideal of 1776:

    The Twelve Basic American Principles

    Just a lttle help here.

    by Hamilton Abert Long, ©1976

  • WolfPackChaser Dec 9, 2009

    Actually I could care less about Democrats or Republicans. It's human behavior I am talking about. Respect. Integrity. Morals. These qualities are becoming extinct in all. We have been superior to animals since the beginning of time because of these qualities...they have set us apart. Now I see us as packs who will one day fight arm to arm against each other.

  • ifcdirector Dec 9, 2009

    "Like it or not, democrats won a majority of seats on the board 4-3. The leader should be a democrat. That is how democracy works."

    Ah another tyranny of the majority person. Nice. People like you are the reason for nazism, communism, and every other form of evil ever thought of by man. Here is a huge information update for you majority person. We do not live in a democracy but in a republic. Hit the library.

  • ifcdirector Dec 9, 2009

    All taxpayers in Wake County should be most thankful this holiday season for Betty Lou Ward's bladder.

  • affirmativediversity Dec 9, 2009

    Ward said she'd "never seen anything like it" in her "21 years" as a Commissioner.

    Really? She's never seen a vote being taken while someone was absent or after they've left the room? Somehow I doubt it.

    Apparently she didn't mind the vote being held while the Commissioner who had a stroke was absent. Apparently it didn't dawn on any of the Democrats to arrange for a conference call or video feed prior to the Chairmanship vote. Ward wasn't at all worried about him not being in the room.

    I tell you what she's probably not seen before: What its like to GET A TASTE OF HER OWN MEDICINE!