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Defense attorney denounces call for Absher resignation

The attorney for embattled School Board member Michael Absher on Tuesday strongly denounced a potential vote by the board to demand the resignation of Absher, who faces a criminal charge related to a group home his nonprofit agency operates and a civil complaint filed by a high school teacher.

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Duly elected by the voters last November, Absher should receive the same presumption of innocence that any citizen is entitled to under the Constitution, attorney Doug Pearson said in a statement.

"The citizens' popular vote that clearly elected Mr. Absher should be upheld in accordance with U.S. Constitution, the state Constitution, the N.C. General Statutes and each member’s oath of office to become a board member of the Henderson County Board of Public Education to support the same," Pearson said. "To call for action contrary to these pillars of democracy is simply unconstitutional."

Board Chair Amy Lynn Holt made the decision to call for the special meeting after conversations with School Board Attorney Dean Shatley and said that the board will be asked to request Absher's resignation.

“We think this is in the best interest of the school system,” Holt said Monday. The decision to call for the meeting was made Tuesday, she said, “but it has been weeks in the works.”

Elected to the School Board on his fourth try last November, Absher was arrested May 24 and charged with permitting a 15-year-old male resident of the Only Hope group home off Upward Road to drink alcohol, the Henderson County sheriff's office said. Only Hope is the organization Absher founded to serve homeless youth. Absher himself had been homeless.

At the time, Absher submitted a letter to the School Board asking for a leave of absence.

The offense of allowing the 15-year-old to consume alcohol "whereby he could become adjudicated delinquent and undisciplined," was alleged to have occurred between Nov. 1, 2016, and Jan. 1 of this year, according to the arrest warrant.

A month later Absher, 27, was served with a civil complaint for communicating a threat after an altercation with an East Henderson High School teacher.

The School Board may not force a sitting member to resign but it may request that a board member resign. Holt said if that Absher were to resign, a replacement would be appointed.

Here is Pearson's statement:

"The citizens of Henderson County voted and elected Michal Absher to the Henderson County School Board. The school board process was created by the legislators to give local citizens a voice in the operations and functions of the school systems. For this board to now request an emergency meeting to call for the resignation of a fellow constitutionally elected official gives me great pause. Beginning in elementary school students are taught the merits of the democratic system and the basic constitutional protections that each and every citizen is afforded.

"One provision of the Constitution is the presumption of innocence and another provision is due process. This emergency meeting appears to have an agenda of circumventing the U.S. Constitution, the N.C. Constitution and the General Statutes. Every school board member took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution, and the rights provided to citizens therein. Please ask yourself if this call for action is consistent with their sworn oath of office. I urge the public to review the oath administered to these elected officials. Regardless of what an individual school board member thinks based on politics or personal belief, the Board must set aside these differences to effectively represent the citizens of this county."