In a move to save Macon County taxpayers money, the local Board of Elections petitioned the state last week for the termination of Director Kim Bishop. While the investigation into the alleged embezzlement of more than $50,000 continues, members of the Board of Elections are turning to the state for help.
“The board took the action available to us by state statue and we expect a State Board of Elections decision within about three weeks, said board member Gary Dills. “I do not presume their decision nor the status of the on-going SBI investigation.”
Dills says that Bishop’s termination will help to center focus on the May primary, rather than the investigation. “We are in the middle of a primary election cycle and implementing numerous changes to election laws so we need all hands on deck and everyone’s attention to the job of ensuring that we support the voters of Macon County,” said Dills. “I am sure I speak for the board when I say we are very proud of our interim Director Debbie George and her staff, Melanie Thiebault and Gary Tallent. They have worked under great pressure to prepare for the upcoming election, to prepare to open a new one-stop voting site in Highlands, to develop documents and processes to implement new legislation, and to make do with a reduced budget. The county should be proud of these public servants, I am.”
The employment of the Director of the Board of Elections is managed on the state level, so by North Carolina law, a county board of elections may petition the state’s Executive Director to take action.
Bishop was placed on paid-administrative leave in late January pending the outcome of the embezzlement investigation. From January 17 until April 17 of this year, Bishop has been paid $17,699.94 in salary and benefits. The petition to the state will end her employment, thus ending her salary.
Last Tuesday, the county board of elections was approved for $41,000 in supplement funds from commissioners to account for a budget shortfall associated with this situation.
The embezzlement investigation began in January after County Manager Derek Roland was made aware of possible irregularities involving the department’s finances. Upon further investigation, it was found that about $50,000 has been paid out of the department under the approval of Director Bishop, but without the knowledge of anyone else.
“I commend the board of elections for the hard work they have put in regarding this situation,” said Roland said of the board’s most recent action to petition the state. “Furthermore and most importantly I appreciate all this board does for the citizens of Macon County.”