BOONE — County Attorney “Four” Eggers, moonlighting as a personal legal adviser to his brother, Luke Eggers, chairman of the Watauga County Board of Elections, wrote a key letter to a state elections official in an attempt to explain the sweeping electoral changes that came out of the board’s contentious Aug. 12 meeting.
The letter, also dated Aug. 12, was written in Luke Eggers’s name to Kim Strach, the executive director of the N.C. State Board of Elections. Digital thumbprints left on the letter, obtained by the Winston-Salem Journal, show that “Four Eggers” was the “author,” and the computer on which the document was written belongs to his law firm, “Eggers, Eggers, Eggers & Eggers.”
The thumbprints, or document properties, also indicate that Four Eggers started writing the letter while his brother was up the block from the law firm presiding as chairman at the Aug. 12 public meeting of the elections board. The document properties show the letter was first created Aug. 12 at 9:48 a.m. — though the meeting started at 9 a.m. and lasted much more than an hour.
His deep involvement in the Republican-led effort to enact electoral changes in Boone has raised questions about whether a county attorney should carry out two roles — that of a personal adviser to an elections-board chairman and that of a neutral county attorney who may be called upon to provide legal counsel to the board as a whole.
Besides advising his brother, writing resolutions for the elections board and the letter to Strach, Four Eggers also provides counsel as the county attorney to the county board of commissioners and other county agencies, including the Department of Social Services and Sheriff’s Office. Since the fiscal year started July 1, Four Eggers has charged Watauga County about $15,000 as county attorney, according to county officials.
Four Eggers did not respond to an email asking why his name is listed as the author on the letter to Strach.
Luke Eggers has not returned calls or emails since last week.
About seven paragraphs long, the letter tries to offer Strach an explanation of the board’s decision to eliminate a polling place at Appalachian State University and the county government building, instead establishing one polling place off campus for a combined “super-precinct” of more than 9,300 voters.
“I write to you as chairman of the Watauga County Board of Elections,” the letter begins.
It is signed as Luther B. Eggers, board chairman.
During its Aug. 12 meeting, the county elections board passed a resolution to that effect 2-to-1, with Republicans Luke Eggers and Bill Aceto in favor and Democrat Kathleen Campbell opposed. Critics said the board action was aimed at suppressing the college vote because it established a polling place off campus. Supporters said it was aimed at easing voter confusion.
The resolution has since been withdrawn.
In an article published Sunday by the Journal, Four Eggers downplayed his role in crafting any of the resolutions that the newly appointed board has passed. Later, when told that the document properties listed his name as the author, he said that he helped write them while his brother was on the phone or in his office.
“I know that I helped him type up some things. But I don’t know if there’s anything beyond that,” he said.
“Some of them, I had helped him type it up while we sat and talked about things. Some of them might have been over the phone. Some of them Luke was in the office,” he said.
Critics here say that Four Eggers’ behind-the-scenes involvement makes a sham of what should be an open, democratic process at elections-board meetings. Supporters say that Luke Eggers should rely on the advice of Four Eggers, a former board member.
The idea that a county attorney’s role, as it relates to a local elections board, should remain neutral was expressed last week by Josh Howard, the chairman of the state elections board.
“He serves as the county attorney,” Howard said. “I don’t think he can do both jobs (serve as a board member and as a county attorney) because the county attorney often has to advise the county board of elections.”
According to documents obtained by the Journal, Four Eggers was the author of the key resolution passed Aug. 12 to combine the three Boone precincts. His name is also listed as the author on subsequent resolutions passed along party lines to withdraw the Aug. 12 proposal and another one to move the polling station at ASU from the Plemmons Student Union to the Legends building on the edge of campus.