Any day now, the Director of the State Board of Elections (SBOE) will make the decision to either terminate Forsyth County Elections Director Rob Coffman’ employment or give him a reprieve. The county board of elections submitted a petition, signed by the majority, to the SBOE on December 11 to remove the Director; Coffman entered his response on Dec. 30.
According to NCGS 163-35 (b), the SBOE Director has 20 days to make her decision, but the State Board could decide to defer the decision and then they would be the ones to make the final determination. If that were to happen, the county director would be given the opportunity to be heard and present witnesses.
Coffman has had his defenders, namely the community organizing group CHANGE. The group started a petition in support of Coffman when the termination petition was submitted to the SBOE and has five signatures – so far. CHANGE is an affiliate of Industrial Areas Foundation, a national community organizing network founded by the noted radical organizer Saul Alinsky. Also supporting Coffman is the Forsyth Democratic Party. The chair of the party wrote a letter in his defense. And then there’s the Winston-Salem Journal’s editorial page editor, John Railey, who acknowledged his friendship with Coffman in an editorial. Railey’s article focused mostly on Coffman’s “irreverent Northern sense of humor” and gave the example of Coffman introducing one of his employees, a black woman, as a “crack ho” to a stranger.
Railey wrote: “I don’t believe Coffman meant the term maliciously, as hard as that might be to explain. But I joke around with him pretty much. I haven’t heard him use a term as bad as ‘crack ho,’ but the Michigan native does have a certain irreverent Northern sense of humor, pushed to the extreme at times, that doesn’t always fly well here.”
While Railey would have us believe that the problem is with Coffman’s “sense of humor,” the petition for Coffman’s removal does not focus entirely on his racist comments directed at employees and others. It looks at how he administers elections and runs the county’s elections office. It covers Coffman’s mishandling of election results and subsequent recounts in this year’s Tobaccoville town council race. The petition also points to how Coffman’s disregard for policy, procedure and the law allowed voter registration cards to be held at the Winston-Salem State University post office for more than four years.
Rob Coffman is not a new director; his problems are not rookie mistakes or simple oversights. They appear to be purposeful disregard for policy and procedure and contempt for authority. Mr. Railey says the board shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water, I wager that many people think that Rob Coffman is the bath water.