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TMCNet:  Small is rejected again by Cabarrus commissioners

[December 21, 2012]

Small is rejected again by Cabarrus commissioners

Dec 21, 2012 (Independent Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- CONCORD, N.C. -- Tempers flared as Cabarrus County Commissioners rejected a bond for Ben Small on Wednesday, again preventing him from taking the Register of Deeds office.

Several times Chairperson Liz Poole warned the audience to remain quiet during the debate and exchanges between Small and commissioners.

Small was nominated for the position by the Cabarrus County Republican Party Executive Committee after commissioners vacated the office Dec. 3.

Small was elected in November, but a $50,000 bond application to Penn National, the county's usual bonding company, was rejected. Small has since presented three bonds including the latest from State Farm, presented Wednesday.

State law says the register of deeds must have a bond that is approved by county commissioners. The first bond from CNA-Western Surety had a few technical defects that needed to be corrected, according to county attorney Rich Koch.

The second bond was presented Dec. 3 from Liberty Mutual and was rejected by commissioners by a 4-1 vote. Commissioners expressed concern that the bonding agency didn't know about the suspension Small's law license by the N.C. State Bar.

"At this point in time it should be black and white," said Commissioner Jay White, who complained that the disclosure on an amended application to State Farm was too vague.

That amended statement included a statement that Small had a disciplinary proceeding against him.

Small said he was just using the wording that Koch told him to use.

Koch then told commissioners he had not spoken directly to Small but had discussed a statement to Cabarrus GOP Chairman John Lewis.

White and Small went back and forth during part of the meeting, including once when White told Small "not to parse words." White said there were three things Small has been asked to do: give commissioners the reason the bond was rejected by Penn National; fully disclose to the bonding agent that his law license has been suspended; and to disclose that he had been denied for a previous bond.

Small said he has been unable to get a reason for the Penn National rejection and that he has disclosed to State Farm. Small also provided statements from three insurance agents supporting his approval.

Commissioner Chris Measmer said he was concerned that he would be personally liable for any mistakes that Small might make if the bond were to be withdrawn.

"We've been around and around. That throws up a red flag for me," Measmer said.

"I'm the one who's been round and round here," Small said, adding he had gone to considerable time and personal expense in an effort to comply with commissioners' requests.

Commissioner Larry Burrage was Small's only supporter on the commission Wednesday, voting against the denial and earlier moving to approve the bond.

"I'm willing to stake everything I have ever had or ever worked for for Mr. Small," Burrage said.

That motion died for a lack of a second.

Burrage and several people in the audience Wednesday were critical of commissioners, saying they were ignoring the will of the people who voted Small into office.

Commissioners recessed the meeting until 9 a.m. Dec. 26 and have asked the Republican Party to nominate another candidate.

Koch said the county's bond for the register of deeds office has been extended indefinitely until the office has been filled.

The Cabarrus Register of Deeds office was unable to do most official business on Dec. 3 because of the bond expiring. Penn National has since extended the bond for retiring Register of Deeds Linda McAbee.

At least three other people have expressed interest in being nominated: deputy Register of Deeds Melissa Lilly, a Democrat-turned Republican who was narrowly defeated by Small in the general election; Barry Richards, who lost to Small in the GOP primary; and former Cabarrus Clerk of Superior Court Fred Biggers, a local attorney.

Contact Mark Plemmons at 704-789-9140 ___ (c)2012 Independent Tribune (Kannapolis, N.C.) Visit the Independent Tribune (Kannapolis, N.C.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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