House committee votes to investigate NC Secretary of State Elaine Marshall for possible impeachment over illegal notaries

The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Chris Millis (R-Pender), would form a House Select Committee of 15 members to conduct an investigation on whether or not Marshall broke the law by commissioning as notaries non-citizens with no legal residency status

Eamon Queeney—North State Journal
Representative Chris Millis calls for the resignation of North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall during a press conference at the Legislative Building in Raleigh

RALEIGH — The N.C. House Rules Committee voted along party lines last week to form a Select Committee of 15 House members for the purposes of investigating N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall for possible impeachable offenses related to the commissioning of illegal aliens as notaries. Rep. Chris Millis (R-Pender) presented the resolution to the committee after months of gathering and presenting evidence that Marshall’s commissioning policies were in conflict with state and federal law.

“There is clear and convincing evidence of this wrongful action by the secretary,” said Millis Wednesday. “The evidence shows that Secretary Marshall has ignored the rule of law, usurped legislative authority, and engaged in conduct that can only undermine the public trust in government and cast doubt on the fraud deterrent role of the ministerial office of a notary public.”

“It is also clear that the actions of the secretary have been completely masked from the public view,” Millis continued. “State law, the notary act, and the secretary’s own application to become a notary public, outline the correct process for non-citizens who have permanent status to rightfully become a notary by presenting the proper documentation of a green card (Form I-551, a Permanent Resident Card).”

But what has for years been hidden from the public the press, and the legislature is the secretary’s clandestine and improper acceptance of other forms of documentation; documents that do not indicate a person who resides legally in the United States. In fact, the employment authorization documents accepted, clearly indicate people who do not meet the federal standards for receiving any grant from the state of North Carolina.”

Millis first began exploring the issue and initiated a legislative request for documents from Marshall’s office after reading a North State Journal article that investigated the policy practice, based on information from a concerned citizen, and raised questions regarding the legality of such policies.

His requests yielded evidence that hundreds of commissioned notaries had questionable legal statuses, as well as “one noncitizen that the federal government had already slated for final deportation and who was under supervision by Homeland Security” before being commissioned as a notary by Marshall’s office.

Representatives of Marshall spoke at the hearing suggesting the attempt was a politically motivated attack and the practice of conferring state certifications to residents with no legal residency status was on sound legal footing.

“My office has never commissioned a notary public on the basis of a DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] card,” said Marshall in a statement. “Every single noncitizen we have commissioned as a notary public has presented appropriate federally issued work authorization documentation to qualify as a notary,” Marshall said. “I can only conclude that this is a political attack and nothing else.”

Democrats on the House Rules Committee also labeled the move a political attack and raised alarm about initiating an investigation with such serious implications during the closing days of the 2017 legislative session.

“Rep. Millis has accused Secretary Marshall of state and federal crimes,” said Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake). “This is about a lot more than the Secretary of State’s Office. This is about the integrity of the House. This is about if we’re really going to sink to this kind of level of partisan politics.”

Millis pushed back against accusations of partisan motivation, saying, “This is not a matter of politics. It is not. It is a matter of law and transparency and public trust.”

As debate in the committee turned to the legality of the policies in question, Millis repeatedly clarified that the present resolution was merely to initiate an investigation to determine if any malfeasance actually occurred.

“This is the first step in the process of impeachment, as developed in coordination with our nonpartisan central legislative staff,” explained Millis. “Instead of simply putting a resolution for impeachment including charges, before the body, I believe it is most proper, prudent and fair to establish a House Select Committee to investigate and upon the conclusion of their investigation to move articles of impeachment. Today, please note that you all are simply establishing a committee to investigate.”

The most recent executive impeachment in North Carolina was not actually that recent at all, occurring in 1870. Marshall is one of the longest-serving elected officials in the state, having held the Secretary of State position for 20 years since being elected to the statewide office in 1996.

The General Assembly adjourned in the wee hours of Friday morning and noted in the adjournment resolution that any bills regarding impeachment could be considered when they next convene on Aug. 3.