New Hanover County Commissioner Julia Olson-Boseman held in contempt of court

New Hanover County Commissioner Julia Olson-Boseman held in contempt of court
Published: Jul. 18, 2022 at 11:06 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 18, 2022 at 11:07 AM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - A judge in Wake County has agreed to issue an arrest order for New Hanover County Commission Chairwoman Julia Olson-Boseman after ruling she was in contempt of court for failing to comply with a court order.

However, she can avoid doing any jail time by turning over financial documents to the North Carolina State Bar. Unlike an arrest warrant, an order for arrest does not mean there are criminal charges, and can come from a judge.

“An arrest warrant is typically issued by a law enforcement agency and order for arrest can come from a court if someone is being held in contempt,” New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David said.

Unlike a warrant, Olson-Boseman can prevent the order for her arrest from being served by complying with the requirements laid out in a preliminary injunction issued by a judge in March.

It comes after Olson-Boseman did not appear in court June 29 and did not attend another contempt hearing Monday morning. Earlier this year, a judge issued a preliminary injunction against Olson-Boseman, requiring her to comply with a court order to produce financial information, including bank records for multiple accounts.

The North Carolina State Bar says she has not done that. The NCSB says the former attorney mismanaged client funds and lied to the organization about her handling of the money.

Monday’s ruling holds Olson-Boseman in civil contempt, which is a tool used by the courts to enforce compliance with a lawful court order.

If Olson-Boseman refuses to comply with the order, she could be forced to serve weekends for the next 90 days in a Wake County jail.

“The court hear by orders that a order for arrest shall issue, that Mrs. Olson Boseman be imprisoned beginning this Friday evening at 6 o’clock p.m. that she shall be released Monday morning at 8 o’clock a.m.,” Judge Norlan Graves said, in a Wake County courtroom Monday morning.

WECT has yet to get a response from Olson-Boseman, who has previously said the allegations were a ‘witch hunt’ led by counsel for the NCSB Robert Weston.

Based on social media posts, it appears Olson-Boseman might not even be in the country right now, instead, on vacation in Italy.

Weston was in court on Monday where he made his case to the judge. In order to prove civil contempt, the NCSB had to prove four points, one of which is that the defendant knew about the injunction. Weston says not only did they send letters and emails to Olson-Boseman, her comments made to the media prove it as well.

“We also know that Ms. Olson-Boseman has made statements to the media about this injunction, I attached that to my motion for an order to show cause,” Weston said.

Two other New Hanover County Commissioners have responded to requests for comments, while a spokesman for the county could not provide a statement at the time of publication.

“We hope that Commissioner Olson-Boseman complies with the court order, but my main focus is doing the work of New Hanover County. The county government continues to be focused on doing the work of the citizens … This is still considered a personal issue for Commissioner Olson-Boseman,” Commissioner Rob Zapple told WECT on a phone call.

And Commissioner Deb Hayes echoed those statements and said she has no knowledge of the situation with Olson-Boseman, and said she is ‘100% dedicated to making sure the county business and citizens are taken care of.’

While her legal troubles are personal and not related to the County Commission in any way, there have been questions as to whether or not Olson-Boseman can legally be removed from office.

Commissioners do not have the authority to remove Olson-Boseman, however, it has happened in New Hanover County in the past.

The UNC School of Government outlines the process.

“Under the North Carolina Constitution, you must be eligible to vote for an office in order to hold that office. Article VI, Sec. 8 says, “The following persons shall be disqualified for office: . . . with respect to any office that is filled by election by the people, any person who is not qualified to vote in an election for that office.”

If a sitting board member becomes disqualified (most likely by moving outside the jurisdiction, but also by being convicted of a felony), he or she must leave office. Votes cast as a sitting member after the disqualification is discovered are subject to challenge, and actions of the board can be thrown into question,” according to the SOG.

Andre Brown, the Chairman of the New Hanover County Democratic Party, released a statement on the story:

“I have not spoken with Julia Olson-Boseman regarding the recent Order holding her in contempt, so I do not have any further details other than what has been reported. It appears Ms. Olson-Boseman has found herself in an untenable position by disregarding the rule of law. I do not know what her rationale was for not showing up for court and defending herself, but she will now have to suffer the consequences for her misconduct.

Reached for comment Monday evening, Rep. Deb Butler said: “Nobody is above the law. And the failure to comply with a judicial directive is punishable by contempt. The Chairwoman is a lawyer and knows as much. I am hopeful that compliance with the order is made quickly so as to avoid further penalty.”

Olson-Boseman can prevent going to jail if she complies with the previous court order, and provides those documents. The judge ordered her to serve her time on the weekends.

Editor’s note: The previous article listed a statute for removing appointed board members from office, however, it does not apply to removing elected officials from office. This story has been updated to provide clarification on the removal process for elected officials.

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