The story behind the governor removing Paul Foley

Paul Foley
Paul Foley

The Observer editorial board, in an editorial posted online Tuesday evening, called on Gov. Pat McCrory to remove one of his appointees, Paul Foley, from the state Board of Elections.

Foley had a conflict of interest and did not reveal it to Board of Elections officials. “Foley serves at the pleasure of the governor. … McCrory should tell him to step down,” the editorial said.

Within a couple of hours, the governor’s press secretary, Graham Wilson, emailed us to say that was wrong. Foley does not serve at the pleasure of the governor, Wilson said. We shouldn’t recommend that McCrory tell Foley to step down, Wilson said, because it wasn’t clear to the governor’s office that he had the statutory authority to do so. On deadline, we changed the editorial to say “McCrory should ask Foley to step down.”

With just a little bit of digging, though, the Observer editorial board quickly figured out that McCrory does indeed have the authority to tell Foley to step down.

General Statute 163, which governs the Board of Elections and which Wilson cited to us, makes no general reference to how members can be removed.

General Statute 143B-16, though, governs the removal of members of boards generally. It says: “Unless other conditions are provided in the Executive Organization Act of 1973, any member of a board, council or committee may be removed from office by the Governor for misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance.”

We brought this to Wilson’s attention Tuesday night. He said the governor’s office would explore it.

On Wednesday, McCrory said he asked Foley to step down, but Foley refused. McCrory called that “a very unique situation.” Later Wednesday, McCrory’s Communication Director Josh Ellis said the governor “will be taking appropriate action by statute to remove him from the board. The governor did this because of serious issues involving his conduct as a board member.” Wilson told us Wednesday night that the statute Ellis is referring to is 143B-16. Late Wednesday night, Foley submitted his resignation.

So by Wednesday afternoon, the governor’s office concluded that that statute does let him remove Foley for cause after all. By acting under that statute, McCrory is now doing the right thing. -- Taylor Batten and Peter St. Onge

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