Debra Goldman fires back at critics

tgoldsmith@newsobserver.comOctober 28, 2012 

  • Goldman confronts Malone Wake County school board member Debra Goldman says she read colleague Chris Malone the following note on June 23, 2010, in an office at former school board headquarters on Wake Forest Road. During an interview Saturday, she played what she said was an audiotape of the incident, for which she, Malone and former school board chair Ron Margiotta were present. The reference to "physical contact," Goldman said, was to Malone’s attempt to hug her at a school board meeting a few days earlier. On the tape, a person she said was Malone apologizes and says, “I couldn’t agree with that more.” Malone could not be reached for comment Saturday. “Chris Malone, I am putting you on notice. I have made this request several times and you have continued to disregard my requests. There is to be no further inappropriate contact from you. I do not want to receive any personal texts, emails, electronic messages, phone calls or voice mails that are not strictly Board of Education related. “You are not to touch me again in any way. If you violate this request, I will take this complaint to the proper authorities. Your pattern of conduct is unwanted and could potentially violate NC State Statutes.”

Wake County school board member Debra Goldman broke a week-long silence Saturday, denying both that she had an affair with a fellow board member and that she voted out of pique rather than principle on a key student assignment issue.

Goldman, the Republican nominee for state auditor, spoke for three hours at the downtown Raleigh office of her lawyer. She denied any physical affair with fellow school board member Chris Malone, who told police investigating a June 2010 burglary at her home that he and Goldman had engaged in a “heated” relationship.

In addition, Goldman said that her vote later that year to stop work on a zone-based assignment plan backed by her Republican colleagues was based on concerns about the plan’s effect on families, not on antipathy to Malone.

Goldman also addressed why she and her family were involved in at least three dozen incidents since January 2010 that involved Cary police. Many of those calls stemmed from fears that her husband, Steven Goldman, was behind unspecified incidents at her home.

Steven Goldman would not respond Saturday to Debra Goldman’s allegation.

Debra Goldman said she was speaking out Saturday because widespread press accounts of the burglary and other events were proving harmful to her children. In addition, she said, the repeated portrayal of her vote against further work on the student assignment plan wrongly cast her as letting personal feelings guide her official actions.

“I could not subscribe to any plan that would create racially isolated schools,” she said. “But I stood firmly behind the idea of community-based schools.”

Former school board chairman Ron Margiotta said earlier this month that Goldman’s desire to get back at Malone played a role in her opposition to the plan championed by Margiotta and board member John Tedesco. Goldman said there was no connection between her vote and Cary police having contacted her the day before to let her know the case was being closed.

Goldman had told police she suspected Malone was involved in the burglary. Cary police reopened the investigation last week, but have not said why.

As evidence of her questions about the plan, Goldman played an audiotape she said was made at her house a few days before the vote, in which Margiotta and Tedesco presented the plan to her while discussing changes meant to gain her support.

The changes weren’t made by the next meeting, at which Goldman voted against continuing work on the zone-based approach. Goldman said she made the recording at the advice of her husband and did not tell Margiotta and Tedesco about it.

“Ron Margiotta is very vindictive toward me,” Goldman said. “He’s made no bones about that.”

Efforts to reach Margiotta and Malone, the Republican candidate for the state House District 35 seat, were unsuccessful Saturday.

An insurance claim?

With attorney John Austin next to her at a conference table, Goldman answered dozens of questions and presented audiotape, documents and email to support her accounts of several matters of controversy.

Goldman has been under pressure to respond since a story in last Sunday’s News & Observer detailed findings of Cary police investigators who responded June 12, 2010, to a call that more than $130,000 in jewelry, cash and coins were stolen from the Goldmans’ home.

The N&O had obtained on Oct. 18 from an unknown source the police narrative in the case, a section of the report that Cary police had not previously made public. Cary police, who have confirmed the authenticity of the narrative report, are investigating how the document was sent to the media.

On Saturday, Debra Goldman produced what appeared to be a July 2011 insurance claim to USAA, with the signature “Steven Goldman,” for $43,545 in cash, jewelry, coins and flatware stolen in a June 2010 burglary. In addition, an email from Steven Goldman’s business email address during the same period asks for the value of missing silverware and apologizes for taking “too long” to prepare a claim.

“Finishing this up finally,” Steven Goldman said, according to the email.

In an interview Saturday, Steven Goldman, who is in the process of getting a divorce from Debra Goldman, said the insurance document represented a partial claim that was never finished after the insurance company asked for more information.

Police were called in 2010 on a day that Debra Goldman and family spent at the Race for the Cure, an event to raise money for cancer research. Goldman, a cancer survivor, said the family spent all day at the event before returning home.

“Everything looked OK until I got upstairs,” she said. “It looked like a tornado had come through. I started screaming for my husband to get up there.”

Both Steven and Debra Goldman provided details to the police, she said, during an emotional, harrowing period after the discovery. Some details of the narrative were incorrect, she said, stating that instead of keeping large amounts of cash in “ratty pink backpack,” she stored often-used jewelry in the backpack and cash in a drawer or other location.

Goldman reiterated the report’s account that she kept large amounts of cash in the home as a result of concerns born of the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the availability of money in crises. She said, however, that if elected auditor, she will put full faith in the security of banks as institutions to hold state funds.

A taped encounter

The narrative report details how Goldman named Malone as a potential suspect in the burglary. On Saturday, Goldman said she was responding to questions from Cary investigators about whether she might have any political enemies. Along with Democrats who had opposed her, Goldman said, she listed Malone because he had made her feel uncomfortable with his attentions.

“The problem was, I thought he liked me,” she said.

The police narrative contained conflicting statements from Goldman and Malone about their relationship.

On Saturday, Debra Goldman repeatedly dismissed as untrue Malone’s statements that he had had romantic, physically heated meetings with her at the Clarion Hotel in Raleigh, at a Cary Hampton Inn and in other locations. She was asked why Malone, who like Goldman is married, would have invented claims to have had a physical affair with her.

“I can’t answer as to why somebody said things,” she said.

Malone said he agreed to Goldman’s request to keep their relationship on a friendly basis. On a tape presented by Goldman as having been recorded June 23, 2010, at the former Wake school board headquarters on Wake Forest Road, she is heard telling Malone that he is to leave her alone.

“You are not to physically touch me again in any way,” she says on the tape, for which she said Margiotta was also present.

On the tape, Malone is heard agreeing to her conditions, adding, “I thought we had some kind of a friendship.”

In the police narrative, Malone acknowledges that meeting with Goldman but described it as having occurred after the end of their “very heated” relationship.

She also explained why Cary police responded following a heated closed-session debate with school board vice chairman Keith Sutton. Goldman had felt intimidated by remarks Sutton had made during the discussions that led to the firing of former Superintendent Tony Tata.

“I said, ‘Can someone just talk to Keith and tell him he can’t talk to us like that?’ ” Goldman said, adding that she first approached school board attorney Ann Majestic and did not intend to file a complaint, which police later dismissed as unfounded

Republican party official Wayne King has told her that the party continues to support her bid for the state auditor seat, Goldman said Saturday. But in Wednesday’s gubernatorial debate, Republican nominee Pat McCrory stopped short of saying he still endorsed Goldman while going to on to praise the job being done by Beth Wood, the Democratic incumbent state auditor

“Should I not win, I will do what I think is my role on the school board,” Goldman said, “which is to dig and to keep on asking questions.”

Goldsmith: 919-829-8929

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