Debra Goldman returns to public office as member of Ronda town council

tgoldsmith@newsobserver.comNovember 6, 2013 

Voters have returned former Cary resident Debra Goldman to elective office in the same year that her controversial term on the Wake County school board ended.

Goldman, 50, won a seat Tuesday on the town commision of Ronda, in Wilkes County, on a write-in vote. She said late Tuesday that she had not campaigned for the office in the small town, about 150 miles northwest of Raleigh, where she moved after stepping down from the school board in February.

In a text message Wednesday, Goldman said she knew she had backers in Wilkes because she had received more than 18,000 votes in that county during her unsuccessful campaign for state auditor last November. Winner Beth Wood received less than half that total in Wilkes.

“So I knew I had support in this area, for my beliefs and with the issues in Ronda revolving around property rights and ordinances, and my willingness to get involved as soon as I got here and start attending town council meetings and speak up on behalf of the people,” Goldman said. “It appears that that was appreciated and garnered the vote of confidence from the citizens.”

Also elected on a write-in vote was Kevin Reece, the founder of the Derie Cheek Reece Foundation, for which Goldman is executive director. The foundation incorporated as a nonprofit with the state Secretary of State’s office in 2011, but it does not appear in an IRS list of organizations that qualify for tax-deductible donations.

Goldman is listed in public documents as living at the same Ronda address as Reece, who has been engaged in a long-running political and legal battle with Victor Varela, the town’s mayor.

Ronda’s political spat

According to accounts in the Winston-Salem Journal this year, Varela and Reece have been engaged in a dispute over land use, specifically about Reece’s desire to keep roosters within town limits. In one twist, the newspaper said, Varela charged Reece with hiring a Ronda youth to make a surreptitious videotape of the mayor’s wife smoking marijuana.

Goldman received 59 write-in votes Tuesday, while Reece was named on 60, according to Wilkes County elections director Kim Caudill.

“It’s an honor to be written in when you were not even running,” Goldman said.

Voters also approved holding a referendum on amending the city charter to allow for recall of elected officials — including the mayor. The action would require a petition and another vote.

Goldman was elected to the Wake County board in 2009 as part of a Republican sweep of the panel. A former firefighter and community volunteer, she encountered controversy when she voted against her GOP colleagues on a student assignment plan.

During her run for state auditor last year, a 2010 police report emerged in which Goldman had named school board colleague and current state Rep. Chris Malone as a suspect in a break-in at her Cary home. Malone, who was cleared of the charges, told investigators he had had a “heated” relationship with Goldman, an account she has repeatedly denied.

‘Point of ridiculousness’

Also since her departure from the school board, Goldman has encountered legal problems related to her years living in Cary. Her son Matt, 24, of Cary, charged in small claims court in Wilkes County that last year his mother had removed and spent $1,986 out of a college fund in his name.

“This has gotten to the point of ridiculousness,” Matt Goldman said this week.

Debra Goldman declined comment on her son’s allegations.

Losing his initial claim, Matt Goldman requested arbitration and won an award for the money after a hearing, according to court documents.

In a Sept. 27 civil court filing in Wilkes County, Debra Goldman requested a new trial on the charge. A hearing on her motion is set for Dec. 17.

Goldsmith: 919-829-8929

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