Friday, January 21, 2022

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ACC trustee Craig Thompson stepping down early

Husband and his wife, county commissioner Pam Thompson, say they want to avoid any potential appearance of a conflict of interest

Aamance Community College trustee Craig Thompson has stepped down from ACC’s board seven months prior to the scheduled expiration of his term on June 30, 2022.

ACC’s trustees were informed of Thompson’s resignation Monday night. “As of now, we don’t have a replacement for him, but hopefully we will by our next meeting” in January,” board chairman Dr. Roslyn Crisp told her fellow trustees during their latest meeting.

Alamance County’s commissioners had voted unanimously in August 2018 to appoint Thompson to a four-year term on the community college board. He had also served as the chairman for the trustees’ curriculum committee.

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Thompson, 70, is a former Alamance County assistant district attorney who returned to private practice as a criminal defense lawyer in 2017. He is also married to Alamance County commissioner and former school board member Pam Thompson.

Pam Thompson’s elevation to the county’s governing board late last year appears to have weighed on both of their minds since, ultimately prompting Craig Thompson to resign from ACC’s board of trustees.

“He is healthy and fine as everything,” the commissioner assured The Alamance News in a brief phone interview Monday.

In the interview, Pam Thompson said that she and her husband were concerned about having any appearance of a conflict of interest.

Alamance County’s commissioners are responsible for allocating a portion of the budget for ACC each year. The county commissioners allocated approximately $4.2 million to ACC for the current fiscal year, or just over 9 percent of the college’s total budget of about $44.5 million for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

“We didn’t want anyone questioning anything when it comes to that kind of money,” Pam Thompson told the newspaper Monday. “This isn’t our money; it’s the citizens’ of Alamance County.”

Craig Thompson expressed similar concerns in the resignation letter he submitted to ACC president Dr. Algie Gatewood in mid-October, writing that he had reached his decision “after much discussion and prayer.” Both he and his wife agreed this was the best course of action, according to a copy of Thompson’s resignation letter obtained this week by The Alamance News.

Pam Thompson had recently asked to be recused from voting on several of ACC’s funding requests but was advised of her duty to vote because neither she nor her husband stood to gain nothing financially as a result, she recalled in the interview.

“It was a great experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I don’t want any of my activities to impugn any way [my wife’s role as a commissioner],” Craig Thompson said in a separate interview Monday.

 

Current and former commissioners have served on ACC’s board
Nevertheless, the commissioners’ role in allocating a portion of the budget for ACC hasn’t precluded three Alamance County commissioners from serving on the trustee board in recent years.

State law allows as many as two county commissioners to serve concurrently as commissioners as well as community college trustees in their county.

The same statute, however, is silent about whether there’s a possible conflict of interest when a spouse serves on one board for which the other spouse has oversight, as with the Thompsons.

Frayda Bluestein, an expert in local government law with, has said it’s “perfectly legal” for spouses and relatives to serve in public office concurrently, though she warns that it may raise “legal and practical issues,” particularly those involving financial benefit or bias, based on her analysis of the statute for the School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Former commissioner chairman Dan Ingle was appointed to ACC’s board by then-Gov. Pat McCrory in August 2013. Ingle, a Republican former state legislator, resigned from the commissioner board and from ACC’s board, as well as a number of other boards on which he served, in March 2016.

Eddie Boswell, who didn’t seek reelection in 2020, was appointed was appointed to ACC’s trustee board by his fellow commissioners in 2017; he didn’t seek reappointment prior to the expiration of his term on June 30, 2021.

Current commissioner vice chairman Steve Carter was appointed to ACC’s board – also by his fellow commissioners – earlier this year.

In addition to allocating part of the community college’s annual budget, the county commissioners are also responsible for appointing four trustees, as are the governor’s office and Alamance-Burlington school board.

Craig Thompson has no plans to step away from his law practice in downtown Graham anytime soon, he said in the interview, adding with a laugh, “I’ll retire when I die.”

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