Expense for buying up opponent's name listed on campaign finance report — Elections Board to investigate.
by Clellie Allen, editor
LOUISBURG — While a certain amount of hijinks can be expected in any election, a North Carolina judge has ruled maneuvers allegedly undertaken by a candidate’s husband are much more than normal politicking.
Documents released Monday afternoon from domain name giant Go Daddy Inc., name James Eric Dickerson, clerk of court candidate Shelley Dickerson’s husband, as the person responsible for purchasing 16 different web addresses (domain names) specifically using current Clerk of Superior Court Patricia Burnette Chastain’s name.
Superior Court Judge James E. Hardin reviewed a March 21 petition filed by Patricia Burnette Chastain claiming that in January, someone bought up more than a dozen websites using versions of her name. Hardin ruled Chastain was a victim of identity theft, a felony under North Carolina law, on March 26.
Using authority granted him by federal law concerning what is called “cybersquatting,” Hardin ordered Go Daddy Inc., the world’s largest provider of accredited domain names (website addresses), to reveal who purchased the websites and to also transfer ownership of the websites to Chastain.
Chastain got custody of the websites in April but had to wait until Monday, one day before the primary election, to learn that it was the husband of her opponent, Shelley Dickerson, who bought up the names.
Both Chastain and Dickerson are Democrats and the winner will run unopposed in November.
“I feel like I am fighting the fight of my life — for all of Franklin County,” Chastain said Monday after receiving the documents from Go Daddy.
“The Clerk of Superior Court is one of the highest positions in the county. It requires the highest moral and judicial standards possible. I have just never seen anything like this in my life,” she added.
According to the Go Daddy documents, Eric Dickerson, used an Engineered Tower Solutions company credit card to buy 16 different domains between Jan. 15 and Jan. 16. All were variations of PatriciaBurnetteChastain.com, PatriciaChastainforClerk.com and PatriciaBurnetteChastainforClerk.com.
Eric Dickerson listed his company e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org, and his home mailing address, 230 Leonard Road, as the contact information for the purchase.
On Shelley Dickerson’s April 28 campaign finance report, the $181.68 spent for the web addresses is listed as an in-kind expenditure by Eric Dickerson.
Under North Carolina law, it is illegal for a corporation or business entity to directly or indirectly contribute to a candidate. This includes in-kind contributions.
When contacted earlier this afternoon, Joshua Lawson of the N.C. State Board of Elections said a Board of Elections investigator would be looking into the possibility that the contribution violated state election law.
When reached for comment Monday afternoon, Eric Dickerson denied any wrong doing.
“To my knowledge, I have not done anything wrong,” he said. “I have not been served with any papers.”
Franklin County District Attorney Sam Currin said normally it is up to law enforcement to issue warrants in cases of identity theft.
Other sources from inside the Sheriff Office said they believed charges would have to come from the state level, but that likely would not happen until after Tuesday's primary election.