Asheville Citizen Times march

March 7th, 2014

Ledford candidacy questioned in complaint

Complaint claims he doesn't live in Madison, where he's on ballot

MARSHALL- The former director of North Carolina's Alcohol Law Enforcement agency is not eligible to run for sheriff in Madison County because he lives in Buncombe County, according to a legal complaint filed Thursday.

Three Madison County residents brought the complaint to the county Board of Elections.

They said in court papers that John Ledford lives in Barnardsville instead of the Madison County address he used to file as a candidate. They cited a state statute that says a candidate for sheriff must live in the county for at least a year before the election.

Board of Elections Director Kathy Ray said Ledford used the address of 2611 Old Mars Hill Highway in Weaverville when he filed as a candidate.

The complaint alleges that Ledford's driver license has the Madison County address he used to file but he does not live there. It alleges that another man used the address on a concealed weapons permit application and that Ledford listed his home as Barnardsville in obituaries of his father and father-in-law.

David Wijewickrama, the attorney representing the Madison County residents who brought the complaint, said a similar case in Yadkin County offers precedent. A candidate for sheriff was removed from the ballot there because he did not live in the county.

"This is a very unique type of petition," he said. "It is the only type of case that I know of that the defendant has the burden of proving they are in fact a citizen, not the plaintiff disproving he is a citizen."

Ray said the Board of Elections has five business days to schedule a hearing and 20 days to make a decision.

She said Ledford has remained a registered voter in Madison County though he has not voted in a general election there since 2008.

Ledford served three terms as sheriff of Madison County before Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue appointed him ALE chief in 2009. He was demoted to agent at his request between the time Republican Pat McCrory was elected in November 2012 and when McCrory took office in January.

He was fired in April. A judge in January ruled the firing was politically motivated. The state is appealing.

The state auditor's office released a report in June saying Ledford and his then-deputy director, Allen Page, did not properly document that their trips using state vehicles for travel between Raleigh and the Asheville area, where both lived, were for state business.

Ledford threatened State Auditor Beth Wood with legal action moments before she testified before a legislative committee on the audit. The audit also said Ledford and others took improper steps designed to hamper the investigation.

Ledford at the time denied any wrongdoing through an attorney.

He did not immediately return a call.