Watauga BOE Member Campbell Responds to Nathan Miller’s Lawsuit, Calls ‘Intimidation … Reprehensible’

Published Monday, September 8, 2014 at 10:26 am
Kathleen Campbell speaks before the State Board in 2013. Photo by Lonnie Webster

Kathleen Campbell speaks before the State Board in 2013. Photo by Lonnie Webster

By Jesse Wood

Sept. 8, 2014. Watauga County Board of Elections member Kathleen Campbell, a Democrat, has a released a response to the lawsuit against her that was filed by Watauga County Board of Commissioners Chair Nathan Miller, a Republican, concerning a public records request that has gone unfulfilled for more than a month.

Miller requested numerous documents and information pertaining to election data she used to advocate for an early voting site on the campus of Appalachian State University at a Watauga County Board of Elections meeting on July 23. At that meeting Republican board members Luke Eggers and Bill Aceto questioned where “these numbers came from.”

Miller made his public records request the following day.

On the day the lawsuit became public last week, Campbell deferred comment until speaking with an attorney.

Over the weekend, High Country Press received her response.

Miller

Miller

“I will fulfill Mr. Miller’s request for public records in a “reasonable” time frame now that I have today received an answer to my question, just as I have always planned to do. If Mr. Miller intends to continue his lawsuit against me, so be it. But I would point out to him that he could make copies of the data he requests himself at the local Board of Elections for much less money and effort than it will cost him to pursue it in a lawsuit,” Campbell wrote.

She also blasted Miller in another paragraph of her response: “I believe that using the legal system, especially by lawyers who can avoid the costs, to intimidate people who are serving their communities by coming forward to work on various county boards is reprehensible. It is for reasons like this that people do not choose to put themselves forward to serve.”


 

See Campbell’s entire statement along with various documents she attached to her response below:

“I would like to set the record straight on matters related to Watauga County Board of Commissioner Chairman Nathan Miller’s lawsuit against me.

Mr. Miller’s public records request of me concerned my analysis of Elections Data at a local Watauga County Board of Elections meeting on July 23. At this meeting, I provided copies of this information to fellow Board members Mr. Bill Aceto and Mr. Luke Eggers, who apparently handed their copies over to Mr. Miller for his perusal.

On July 25 Mr. Miller hand delivered a public records request addressed to me to a local Board of Elections staff member, who then gave the request to me. Once I reviewed Mr. Miller’s letter, I noted that it asked that I produce 23 items, the last of which was in fact demanded of me on the same date as the request itself. The other 22 items were demanded within two weeks.

There is nothing in the state statute that supports Mr. Miller’s demand for public records within any definitive timeframe, much less so quickly, so I decided I would begin to collect the information he requested after attending a mandatory State Board training session from August 5-7 and a hearing on my one-stop petition by the State Board in Raleigh on August 21st. The latter required much preparation, including a deadline of August 14th for all supporting materials. Nevertheless, when I did not drop all my other commitments to address Mr. Miller’s request, he wrote to County Attorney Four (Stacy) Eggers on August 11th, asking him to insist that I answer this public records request post immediately or he would sue me.

Attorney Eggers then notified me by letter on Aug. 13, that, if I did not turn over the documents, I could be liable for court costs in a lawsuit and if I destroyed anything, it would be considered a criminal action.

I am not an attorney, so in response to attorney Miller’s demands and attorney Eggers’ threats, I wanted to be sure I followed the law carefully in fulfillment of Mr. Miller’s public records request. The majority of items Mr. Miller demanded consisted of data collected from and available at the local Board of Elections. So on Aug. 18, I wrote a letter to Director Hodges, the custodian of those records, and copied my letter to Mr. Miller and Mr. Eggers. I asked for clarification on who was to produce those official election records. I expressed that I was happy to cooperate with any Public Records Request once my question was answered.

I find it disingenuous that that Mr. Miller does not include my letter with the other materials he encloses in his subpoena of me. And it was just today, September 4th, that Attorney Eggers wrote to Director Hodges that I had apparently copied him to an incorrect email address and that he had not received a copy of my letter until today. I note that while Mr. Eggers may not have received a copy of my letter, he has undoubtedly had it shared with him prior to today as he was representing Mr. Miller for the County in his letter to me of August 13th. In any case, Mr. Miller received it on August 18th and, without any response to my letter or my question, filed a lawsuit against me on Aug. 29.

I believe that using the legal system, especially by lawyers who can avoid the costs, to intimidate people who are serving their communities by coming forward to work on various county boards is reprehensible. It is for reasons like this that people do not choose to put themselves forward to serve.

I will fulfill Mr. Miller’s request for public records in a “reasonable” time frame now that I have today received an answer to my question, just as I have always planned to do. If Mr. Miller intends to continue his lawsuit against me, so be it. But I would point out to him that he could make copies of the data he requests himself at the local Board of Elections for much less money and effort than it will cost him to pursue it in a lawsuit.”

7. Four Eggers-JAH

6. Subpeona from N Miller

5. Campbell letter to Jane Ann Hodges re N Miller PRR[1]

4 Eggers -Campbell 08-13003

3. N Miller -4 Eggers 08-14002

2. PRR Nathan Miller 07-14001

 

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