Surprise, Surprise: Envelope of supposed ballots remains closed in Hale dispute

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 2, 2004

GREENSBORO-Friday was suppose to be the day there would finally be some answers in the Hale County Commissioner Lois Fields’ contest of the election results from June 1, but instead of answers there is still a sealed envelope that needs just one more signature to open, or does it…

About 15-20 people crammed into the chambers of the Hale County Probate Judge Leland Avery to finally see the opening of the sealed Constitutional Amendment envelope that’s been in Avery’s possession the whole time. Both sides of the contest want this envelope opened because many speculate that the lost sign-in sheets from Akron may be inside.

“”Everyone is here today to see the opening of this envelope, but we can’t do it because we need one more signature on this letter and then we have to send it to Judge Robert Meigs, who will then issue an order to open it,” Avery said, “The old order only allowed us access to the ballots.”

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Hale County Circuit Clerk GayNell Tinker is the other signature that is needed on the letter. The election officials must sign this letter Sheriff Larry Johnson, Tinker and Avery and then the envelope will be opened.

“If she doesn’t sign the letter, then the envelope will remain sealed for ever, I guess,” Avery said.

Tinker said she also talked to Judge Meigs and he told her that she didn’t have to sign the letter because the letter was in the care of the Probate Judge, thus giving him the power to open it. Avery and his attorney H. Cobbs said that was untrue and it must be done by an order from the judge.

After the discussion, both Tinker and Avery left the crowd sitting there searching for a clue as to what just happened. The talks then spread through the courthouse into the Circuit Clerk office.

Tinker said this was an issue of the Democratic Party and they could issue an order to open the letter, but Cobbs disagreed with that statement. The Hale County Democratic Party’s attorney Patrick Arrington talked to both sides and they agreed to allow Arrington to call and find out if the party had jurisdiction over the case or not.

Fields said she knew something like this was going to happen, but she will be glad when the truth finally comes out.