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Stone's trustees bill blocked by judge

Posted August 15, 2013
Updated August 16, 2013

— A Lee County judge has blocked a bill by Rep. Mike Stone, R-Lee, that would have kicked four people off the Central Carolina Community College Board of Trustees.

House Bill 512 became law July 17. It ends the terms of the four trustees who were appointed by the Lee County Board of Education. It also bans the four from being reappointed to their former seats.

Superior Court Judge Winston Gilchrist issued the preliminary injunction late Thursday after a lengthy hearing that pitted the sacked trustees against the state, which argued that lawmakers, having created the community college system, have the right to exercise authority over it, whether or not any legitimate governmental interest can be shown.  

The four terminated trustees – Janet Hayes, Tony Lett, Chet Mann and Chip Post – filed suit against the state, arguing that the law serves no legitimate public interest and unfairly targets the appointees of the county's Democrat-led school board while leaving in place trustees appointed by the Republican-led Lee County Board of Commissioners.

There are 16 members on the Central Carolina Community College board, most appointed by county commissioners in Chatham, Lee, and Harnett counties, the area served by the school.

The lawsuit also argues that the state constitution grants appointees to boards of trustees the right to serve their terms, a contention the state disputes.

Gilchrist put the law on hold pending a trial on the lawsuit's merits. No date has yet been set. 

The bill isn't Stone's first salvo against the Lee County school board.

Another new law filed by Stone, House Bill 491, takes authority for school resource officers away from the school board and gives it to the sheriff, who is Republican. A third bill, House Bill 490, changes elections for the school board and for the mayor and city council of Sanford from nonpartisan to partisan – over the objections of both bodies.

As local bills, all three became law without ever reaching the governor's desk, supported by Republican majorities in both the House and Senate. 

Post, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, says all three bills are nothing more than petty political payback.  

"It's just arbitrary and capricious," Post told WRAL News earlier this month. 

Lee County Republicans, Post said, "want to control everything. They're just politicizing everything, is what it is, and I just decided I'm not going to sit back and let it happen."

Stone has a history on conflict with Lee County Schools and with CCCC, his alma mater. 

In 2011, Stone complained that his third-grade daughter's class at Tramway Elementary School in Sanford had been given an assignment to write a letter to him, asking him to protect education funding. He accused the school of using his child as a "lobbyist."

Then-Superintendent Jeff Moss defended the assignment. Moss last fall engaged in a heated public exchange with Jim Womack, the Republican chairman of the Lee County Board of Commissioners. Womack is also the chairman of the state's Mining and Energy Commission. 

In 2013, one of the hosts of a local talk show broadcast by CCCC, The Rant, wrote a blogpost critical of Stone. The school quickly ditched the show after Stone contacted the president's office to ask whether the show adhered to FCC guidelines.

Lett, one of the hosts of that former show, is one of the four CCCC trustees targeted by Stone's now-enjoined legislation. Lett was also a donor to Stone's opponent in the 2012 election.

Stone did not respond to WRAL's request for comment.

10 Comments

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  • sammy750 Aug 19, 2013

    Just a week after the NC law makers passed a voter ID bill, that will keep tens of thousands from voting, they have now went from city to city where there is a college and university and cut the voting precinct down to one in each city, along with cutting early voting. Thus all the colleges and all the other voters of that city have one place to vote, without any early voting. IS THIS NOT VOTER SUPPRESS, TAKING AWAY THE RIGHT TO VOTE IN NC. The Koch Bros. have finance the Republicans to put NC in their control. The Koch bros now control the state, the law makers and the people.

  • NCNATIVE Aug 19, 2013

    He did not even show up for court. He is such a nonrepresentative. He will not responds to any phone calls or letters unless you are his "peeps".

  • williammjohnston Aug 19, 2013

    Speak of a tyrant abusing power, did you forget "the one" appointing czars who do not have to be approved,
    to make decisions only favorable to his faction?

  • Rebelyell55 Aug 19, 2013

    Just more them job creation bills. It's getting pretty sad what our current body is doing. As for Mr. Stone and Mr. Womack, Lee county is in for a rude awakening. Sadly the surrounding counties will share some of the damage.

  • kdawg Aug 17, 2013

    It's hardly a democracy when you just pass random bills to remove people with different thoughts than you from their legally held positions. These people have no shame. Complete tyrants abusing their power. If anyone should lose their position, clearly it's Stone.

  • URADA Aug 17, 2013

    Mike Stone is in office solely to use his power to enact vendettas against anyone or any group he feels has wronged him. He is in no way doing anything of any use to the people he claims to represent. I don't know a single person that thinks he is helping by introducing all these blatantly self serving bills.

  • wlbbjb Aug 16, 2013

    Don't his children go to private school.

  • miseem Aug 16, 2013

    tone must have been elected by a majority of voters who know him possibly better than you do, many of whom chose not to support your type democrat! williammjohnston.

    Sort of like a lot of posters on other stories that "thought" they knew what McCrory stood for. A lot of them are unpleasantly surprised. Expect this to be held up by the courts, like a lot of the NCGA actions over the last 2 years. Their problem is selective restrictions and dismissals on boards, paycheck deductions, and state contracts to punish anyone that disagrees with them. Generally, courts (even those tied to the GOP) are of the opinion that you don't single out one group or class to be kicked out.

  • williammjohnston Aug 16, 2013

    free2beme.... Stone must have been elected by a majority of voters who know him possibly better than you
    do, many of whom chose not to support your type democrat! BTW, did you mean "nth" degree for unth?

  • free2bme Aug 16, 2013

    Stone is a disgrace to public office. He is being a legal gangster and bully. This is so wrong and corrupt to the unth degree. Stone needs to be relieved from his post. The people of lee county should be protesting. Stone is drunk with power and is abusive and does not deserve to represent no one in this country.