Dr. R. Mack Durham, who is running as a candidate for mayor of Williamston, filed a report on August 13 with the Williamston Police Department alleging a violation of the Hatch Act in relation to the Williamston mayor’s race. The Hatch Act of 1939 is a federal law with the provision to prohibit governmental employees (civil servants) in the executive branch of the federal government, except the President and the Vice President, from engaging in partisan political activity.
Named after Senator Carl Hatch of New Mexico, the law was officially known as An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities. The act precluded federal employees from membership in “any political organization which advocates the overthrow of our constitutional form of government,” which especially applied to fascist and communist organizations.
According to the police incident report, Durham stated that attorney Jimmy Cox told him that Larry Smith had called Cox and advised him that a Williamston town employee had given him politically motivated material about Durham.
The report states that the alleged incident occurred at approximately 10 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 9 during the hours that the employee works for the town. Durham stated that another town employee who works in the office also saw the transaction.
Durham also stated in the incident report that Smith returned to town hall later that day and met with town administrator Phyllis Lollis.
According to documents provided to The Journal and statements of persons involved in the alleged incident, the material that was “passed to Smith” were documents related to damage to the fender and front door of a 1999 Ford F250 4×4 Crew Cab owned by the town.
The hood and other scrap metal was taken to Main St. Motors to sell as scrap. Smith was delivering a check dated Aug. 9 to the town in the amount of $1443 for scrap metal sold on June 7 amounting to $1290 and June 12 for $133.
When contacted, Cox said that he has no direct knowledge of the events that are alleged to have taken place, and that his knowledge is only second hand. However, he stated that if true, there is possibly a serious ethical violation to have a town employee engaging in partisan politics while on the clock at tax payers expense.
Cox said if the allegations are true, “Such actions could violate some law, but I do not know.”
After taking the report, the Williamston Police Department turned the incident over to SLED for investigation.
The incident has become the basis of rumors and speculation surrounding the announcement last week that Williamston Police Chief Jay Grubbs had submitted a letter of resignation to the town and was retiring.
Grubbs told The Journal Friday that his decision to retire was not related to any incident and that he had not been asked to retire or resign by the mayor or anyone else.
When asked, Mayor Carthel Crout said that he had not talked with Grubbs prior to receiving the letter of resignation on Friday.
Crout also said he had not talked with the police chief about the report involving the Hatch Act.
“I never talked with the police chief about that incident report,” he said.
The mayor did acknowledge that the incident has been turned over to SLED for investigation and because of that he had no other comment about it.