Fallout over Goldman-Malone drama uncertain

Impact on their bids for auditor, state House remains uncertain

tgoldsmith@newsobserver.comOctober 21, 2012 

Fallout from the entanglement of Wake County school board members Debra Goldman and Chris Malone will likely affect this fall’s elections and the work of the panel, analysts and public figures said Sunday.

According to a copy of a Cary police report obtained by The News & Observer last week, Goldman named Malone as a suspect in the burglary of $130,000 worth of jewelry, cash and coins from her home in 2010. The investigative report also had Malone, who was dropped as a suspect, saying he and Goldman had a “very heated” physical relationship. Goldman said she rebuffed his romantic advances.

While still not confirming details of the report, Cary Police Chief Pat Bazemore said Sunday that she would investigate how the document was obtained by the media. The report detailing the statements that Goldman and Malone made to police are not required to be released under the state Public Records Law.

“It’s such a unique story that it’s hard to compare it to anything else that has happened before,” Andy Taylor, an N.C. State University political science professor, said Sunday. “It’s bizarre, I guess. It’s certainly not going to help the Republicans.”

Goldman, the Republican nominee for state auditor, and Malone, a Republican candidate for a state House seat, maintained silence on the incident Sunday and could not be reached for comment.

Political analyst Carter Wrenn, who has advised a long list of prominent Republicans, said Goldman and Malone were employing the wrong strategy by not responding to the reports. Wrenn is not working with Goldman or Malone.

“The mistake most people make is not facing it head-on,” Wrenn said Sunday. “It’s human nature when you have a problem like that to want to hide your head in the sand.”

The incident “certainly won’t help” the candidates’ bid in this election season but might not be a deciding factor, he said.

“Will it change people’s voting behavior? Who knows?” Wrenn said. “You’d have to be smarter than I am to know that.”

Taylor, who is co-authoring a book on the Wake County school system, said it will hurt both Goldman’s and Malone’s campaigns, but especially Goldman’s.

“The auditor is supposed to be keeping people in government honest, trying to protect the public’s interests and promoting transparency,” Taylor said.

Another crisis for board

The accounts of the interaction between Goldman and Malone come not only when they are campaigning for higher office, but also as they and other members face a crucial time for the Wake County school board. The nine-member panel is in the midst of crafting a new assignment plan, dealing with accreditation issues and planning for a bond referendum for 2013.

An earlier attempt at a school assignment plan, crafted by board member John Tedesco, was stopped in its tracks when Goldman voted against her Republican colleagues in October 2010. The vote came a day after police in Cary, having questioned Malone about the reported burglary, told Goldman that the investigation was being closed.

“The only way to spin it for Republicans might be to make Malone the victim of it and sort of explain why she wavered and essentially backed out on the majority on the assignment plan,” Taylor said.

Ron Margiotta, who was school board chairman in 2010, has said he believes the allegations that Goldman leveled against Malone played a role in her assignment vote.

Kevin Hill, chairman of the Wake County school board, said the members’ actions could prove an obstacle to the smooth operation of the board. Democrats regained the majority on the board after last fall’s election. “My first reaction is that it most certainly will have an impact on their effectiveness and credibility,” said Hill, a Democrat. “Former chairman Margiotta basically alleged that Debra Goldman used her vote to get back at Chris Malone. That’s clearly not what the citizens and parents in Wake County want. They want to be able to trust that the board members are making good decisions for the kids in school.”

Beth Wood, Goldman’s Democratic opponent in the state auditor race, said Sunday that she did not think the news accounts of the 2010 incidents would necessarily prove crucial to the race.

“She didn’t have the credentials to do the job before the story came out, and she still doesn’t have them,” Wood said. “Of course, the state auditor does have to have integrity.”

‘Should have known better’

At the concluding day of the State Fair, volunteers at the Republican booth referred questions to the state party spokesman, who could not be reached Sunday. Two volunteers at the Democratic booth were more than happy to comment.

“They should have known better. They are adults in a public position, representing their constituents and their party, which if I remember correctly is the Republican Party,” said Bob Anderson, of Raleigh, who was handing out Obama-Biden stickers Sunday afternoon. “It’s just not right. If it interferes with their public responsibilities, that’s even worse.”

Another volunteer, Michael Knight of North Raleigh, said, “All we need is more drama.” Knight suggested the school board’s antics could be good fodder for a reality television show.

Hill, the school board chairman, said it’s too early to consider whether he would ask either Goldman or Malone to step down from the board. If either resigned, the vacancy would be filled by the Democratic-led board.

“I don’t intend to be judgmental,” Hill said. “I would like to think that members would reflect and make that decision on their own, if needed.”

Taylor said it might be better for Democrats not to pressure them to resign because the longer they stay on the board, the more people will be reminded about the allegations. Taylor said the allegations will help members of the school board’s Democratic majority by taking attention away over the recent firing of Superintendent Tony Tata, who was backed by the Republican members.

“If they’re not talking about Tata or the Democratic majority, it’s probably better for them,” Taylor said.

Staff writers Andrea Weigl and Anne Blythe contributed to this report.

Goldsmith: 919-829-8929

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