UPDATED: State elections board asked to fire McFadyen

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3 p.m. update:

A petition requesting the termination of Elections Director Marvin McFadyen says the New Hanover County Board of Elections “has no confidence” in McFadyen’s ability to successfully lead and represent the board, and that his conduct as director warrants termination.

McFadyen’s Nov. 15 arrest is listed in the petition as a reason for the board’s request to terminate his employment. Also listed is the release of absentee ballots submitted by military and overseas voters, which became available on the county’s public email server through McFadyen’s email account, and questions about McFadyen’s ability to recruit, train, supervise and retain personnel. The petition includes testimony from county elections staff suggesting that McFadyen intimidated them and was not familiar with work they performed, and was thus unable to provide feedback or guidance. The petition “concludes that Mr. McFadyen’s presence in the office each day now is creating a fragile and dysfunctional environment and hinders the Board’s ability to retain” employees.

Board member Tannis Nelson said she opposed approval of the petition during a Jan. 7 meeting, in part because McFadyen did not receive an annual performance evaluation or an opportunity to defend his actions. The petition states the board informed McFadyen his annual performance evaluation would be delayed until after the 2014 election cycle.

Original story:

After a flurry of post-election activity and controversy, including the Nov. 15 arrest of New Hanover County Elections Director Marvin McFadyen, the New Hanover County Board of Elections announced intent to file a petition with the state elections board to remove McFadyen from office.

The board promptly entered closed session after calling the Jan. 7 special meeting to order at 10 a.m. Sounds of impassioned discussion between Secretary Marlene Mitchell and board member Tannis Nelson could be heard outside the boardroom, where the elections board met in closed session for an hour.

The petition is a request to the North Carolina State Board of Elections to remove McFadyen from office, said Chairman John Ferrante after the board emerged from closed session. Only the North Carolina State Board of Elections can remove the elections director from office, he added.

Nelson, who opposed to the petition but signed it as an indication that she read it, said she had less than 24 hours to read the 40-page document, which also contained more than 60 pages of exhibits supporting the board’s request. She said it was “highly unethical” for the board to adopt the petition because McFadyen did not receive an annual evaluation from the board since June 2013, and additionally, was not provided with a copy of the petition prior to the meeting.

Staff photo by Miriah Hamrick. Board member Tannis Nelson, left, opposed a petition to remove Elections Director Marvin McFadyen from office during a Jan. 7 meeting of the New Hanover County Board of Elections.

Staff photo by Miriah Hamrick. Board member Tannis Nelson, left, opposed a petition to remove Elections Director Marvin McFadyen from office during a Jan. 7 meeting of the New Hanover County Board of Elections.

Ferrante said he disagreed with all of Nelson’s comments.

Ferrante said McFadyen will not be stripped of his title unless the state elections board decides to entertain the county board’s request, but McFadyen was asked to leave the office after the meeting adjourned, leaving elections supervisor Derek Bowens to oversee the office.

Nelson requested McFadyen work from home, or that someone from the state elections board come and oversee operations. Ferrante said the state board “has confidence” in Bowens to run the office.

With his possessions gathered from his office in hand, McFadyen defended his service to New Hanover County as elections director.

“I think I’ve done a fair job for New Hanover County, and I plan to continue to do so,” McFadyen said.

He confirmed that he did not know of the petition before the Jan. 7 meeting, but said he was asked to resign several times, which he refused to do. He said he plans to continue working from home, and he looks forward to the state’s board decision.

The New Hanover County elections board called an emergency meeting following McFadyen’s arrest and first court appearance Nov. 17, with only a closed session to discuss personnel matters and attorney-client privileges on the agenda. Chairman John Ferrante was not present, but Mitchell and Nelson declined to comment on the board’s activity during the Nov. 17 closed session.

The board continued to meet in closed sessions as it handled an elections protest heard by both the county and the North Carolina State Board of Elections and a countywide ballot recount to confirm the outcome of two local races and one state race, among other issues that arose after the Nov. 4 election. McFadyen remained elections director during this time, returning to work in time to oversee the Nov. 20 recount.

McFadyen was arrested and booked at the New Hanover County jail Nov. 15 on charges of assault on a female. Wilmington Police Department responded to a domestic dispute call made from a residence shared by McFadyen and a partner in the 2500 block of Croquet Drive, near the intersection of Independence and Shipyard boulevards.

The victim told the 911 dispatcher McFadyen threw her against the wall when she asked him to leave her bedroom, and tried to shut the door on her foot as he exited the room. She said both she and McFadyen consumed alcohol prior to the event. She declined medical treatment.

McFadyen was released on a $1,500 unsecured bond after his first appearance before District Judge James Faison. His next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 16, and if convicted, he faces 150 days in jail.

Stay tuned for more on this developing story.

email miriah@luminanews.com

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