Mecklenburg attorney looking into whether someone voted on county commissioner’s behalf
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - The Mecklenburg County attorney is looking into whether someone voted on behalf of County Commissioner Ella Scarborough at a virtual board meeting last week, Commissioners’ Chairman George Dunlap said.
Dunlap said there is no allegation of impropriety and that Scarborough is not under a formal investigation. But Dunlap said county attorney Tyrone Wade has been notified that Scarborough’s daughter, instead of Scarborough herself, might have verbally cast a vote last Wednesday.
“The truth of the matter is that anyone who was listening to the meeting (and) observing the meeting heard a very different voice than what they previously heard from when she did, in fact, vote,” Dunlap told The Charlotte Observer Monday.
“Everybody heard it,” Dunlap added. “I called the county attorney (this morning) to share with him that I heard it and that other commissioners had approached me.”
Scarborough and her daughter, Tori, were not able to be reached Monday night.
Dunlap said the county likely will not pursue any disciplinary action.
Instead, Dunlap said he plans to speak with Scarborough’s children, who care for the 75-year-old commissioner, to “make sure they understand that there’s some implications if it’s determined that someone else in the house is voting on her behalf, and hope that would be sufficient to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”
VOTE IN QUESTION
It’s the latest incident that has called Scarborough’s mental fitness into question. Scarborough is a longtime elected leader and was the first Black woman to serve on the Charlotte City Council in the 1980s.
During a roll call vote last week, Scarborough was called on twice as her colleagues approved a 7% base salary raise for County Manager Dena Diorio. Still, Scarborough did not respond and her camera was not on during the Webex meeting.
In a subsequent vote, when commissioners were asked to approve a $15,000 performance bonus for Diorio, there was a quicker response when Dunlap called on Scarborough.
A voice promptly responded “Aye,” eliciting a laugh from Dunlap.
During the meeting, he offered no explanation for what had happened. Yet commissioners later told the Observer the voice sounded odd — and not like Scarborough’s.
Dunlap told the Observer he laughed because he was caught off guard by Scarborough’s vote. Scarborough’s vote alone had little impact, as commissioners overwhelmingly approved Diorio’s compensation.
ATTENDED VIRTUAL MEETINGS
In May, several current and former commissioners, who asked not to be named to speak freely about their revered colleague, recalled witnessing episodes before the pandemic when Scarborough appeared confused about her surroundings, struggled to find her way to meetings or could not follow conversations.
Some in county government have inquired about options for her removal from office but were told there isn’t a mechanism to do so, the commissioners told the Observer. The matter, they say, is up to Mecklenburg voters. The next election is in 2022.
Dunlap declined to comment on Scarborough’s mental fitness on Monday, saying he is not a medical doctor.
Dunlap said he has not spoken to Scarborough in several months. She attended meetings virtually throughout the summer, even as her colleagues came into the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. As for Scarborough’s children, Dunlap said he only speaks to them “sometimes.”
Commissioners have a public policy session on Tuesday afternoon, but it is unlikely this incident can be discussed, due to meeting procedures.
“The bottom line is this is the person who the voting public duly elected to hold that position,” Dunlap said of Scarborough. “Until such that person either resigns or is no longer serving, we have to live with the fact that she gets the same vote as every other elected official.”
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