“It’s basically just a formality, but it is ultimately up to them,” said Luke Bateman, chairman of the Macon County Board of Elections.
The board has recommended Debbie George, who is serving as interim director, to replace Bishop. George has held the title since shortly after Bishop was placed on leave in January and has been working for the board of elections since 2003. In 2005, she was promoted from her original part-time job to the fulltime job of deputy director, which she held until taking on the interim director job.
“She was already in the position, so she was the obvious choice,” Bateman said.
The final decision from the North Carolina Board of Elections is expected within the next few weeks. It’s a piece of mail that Bateman is looking forward to. Things have been topsy-turvy since the SBI investigation began, bringing a flurry of publicity to the “typically quiet” office as its leaders worked to make cuts and secure funds to cover the $50,000 vanished from its coffers.
The criminal investigation is still ongoing, but as far as Bateman is concerned the issue is basically wrapped up.
“We’re not investigators,” he said. “Our sole job is to run the county office to the best of our ability.”
The investigation involves 37 checks that Bishop had requested and signed, supposedly to pay contractors for part-time work, according to court documents. However, the people the checks were made out to never received them, the search warrant said, and the board members whose names appeared on the signature line said they had never signed the checks.
Bateman is glad for the chance to name a new director and move on — especially without the financial burden of paying Bishop her $42,000 while employing someone else to fill her position while she stayed home on leave.
“This will give us the chance to get back to business as usual,” he said. “That was our goal from the get-go.”