Monday, June 17, 2024

Olson-Boseman a no-show per courts, requests State Bar lift arrest order

New Hanover County Chair Julia Olson-Boseman was ordered by a Wake County judge to submit necessary financial documents or turn herself into the detention center as of 6 p.m. Friday. (Port City Daily photo/Amy Passaretti)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Time has run out for county commissioner chair Julia Olson-Boseman. As of 6 p.m. Friday, Olson-Boseman was ordered to release financial documents to the courts or show up to the Wake County Detention Center.

The detention center confirmed there is “no one by that name” in its system, meaning she has not turned herself in. 

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

According to the Wake County clerk’s office, the case file had been pulled as of 11 a.m. Monday, so staff could not confirm if any financials were submitted.

“Usually when it’s pulled, it means it’s under some sort of judicial review,” a Wake County staff member said.

It’s also likely the file is in transit between the courtroom and refiling, according to the Wake County court administrator. 

Olson-Boseman’s legal counsel, Joshua Walthall, said his client is “making every effort” to obtain the documents the State Bar is seeking.

“Ms. Boseman has a deep and sincere respect for the judicial system and is committed to complying with the court’s order,” he said in a statement.

The Greater Wilmington Business Journal reported Olson-Boseman has sent a letter to the State Bar asking for a motion to temporarily lift an order for her arrest. She asks for permission to immediately surrender her law license.

It’s unclear what’s next for the former attorney. She could be spending her weekends over the next three months in jail.

After not appearing in front Judge Norlan Graves on June 29 or July 18 and failing to provide the North Carolina State Bar documents related to her former law practice, which closed in 2021, the Wake County judge found her in contempt of court last Monday.

Documents are in relation to the bar’s investigation into allegations that Olson-Boseman mismanaged about $9,000 of clients’ funds from her time as a practicing attorney. Olson-Boseman was licensed in 1993 and according to court documents, told the State Bar she closed her business in January 2021. Her accounts stayed open through November 2021.

The Wake County Superior Court granted the N.C. State Bar’s petition for a preliminary injunction against Olson-Boseman on March 14, stating, “the respondent misapplied entrusted funds and made material misrepresentations to the State Bar regarding the same.”

It also concludes Olson-Boseman’s conduct is breaking the N.C. General Statute 84-28(b), stating the defendant “violated one or more of the Rules of Professional Conduct.” The N.C. State Bar is requesting an investigation into the chair’s bank accounts to ensure “no further entrusted funds were mishandled.”

As of Friday, the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office said it did not have any orders to arrest Olson-Boseman. It has a “motion to show cause,” which forces her to provide financial records to the Wake County courthouse or go to jail.

“If she doesn’t comply and the judge changes that order, and makes it an order for arrest, then we’d address that if we get it,” NHCSO Lt. Brewer said Friday. “At this time, that’s all speculatory.”

Brewer said even if the courts did issue an order for arrest, the sheriff’s office “would have to wait to have some type of knowledge she’s in town.”

According to emails obtained by PCD, Olson-Boseman’s wife, Angela Olson-Boseman — who also works as a social worker for the county — wrote on July 12 to an administrative specialist that she would be on a two-week vacation to Italy, starting Friday, July 15.

Last week, Olson-Boseman’s Facebook page showed pictures of her family in Rome. Once news broke she didn’t appear in court Monday, her Facebook page was taken down and has not been reinstated since. 

It’s unclear whether she is still out of the country.

‘No confidence’

As the state bar investigation has unfolded in regards to Olson-Boseman, first reported by WECT last spring, residents have been calling for her removal from the commission.

One resident emailed commissioners last Wednesday, saying the chairwoman’s service to the county has reflected poorly on the board.

“Your chair, Julia Olson-Boseman has recently conducted herself in such a way that has brought the office of the County Commission into a place of no confidence,” the individual wrote. “She has shown no regard for the law and her behavior and disrespect is completely unacceptable. There is no alternative at this point than to remove her from her position as Chair of the County Commission. I’m requesting that this be done immediately.”

At least half a dozen other emails obtained by PCD ask commissioners for her immediate removal.

In response, vice-chair Deb Hays wrote the same correspondence to each inquiry: 

“Thank you for your email and sharing your concerns. Unfortunately, there is nothing the Commissioners can do as an elected official may only be removed from office if they are convicted of a felony. However, the electorate has spoken as Ms. Olson-Boseman did not make it out of the primary so will not be re-elected this fall.”

Olson-Boseman received 22.5% of the Democratic votes in the May election, trailing behind Rob Zapple (44.93%) and Travis Robinson (32%). She first began serving on the county commission in 2000 until 2004 when she was elected to the Senate and served from 2005 to 2011. Olson-Boseman then was re-elected to the commission in 2018. 

It wasn’t until 2020 that she was elected chair in a unanimous vote. In 2021, she was voted chair again, in a 3-2 vote, commissioners Rob Zapple and Jonathan Barfield dissented. 

According to the N.C. State Board of Elections, Olson-Boseman appears to have changed her party affiliation and is now registered as a Republican. She would have had to make the change in the last two months.

New Hanover County Republican Party Chair Will Knecht said he was “surprised” at Olson-Boseman’s changed political registration and said no member of the party spoke with her about it.

“We denounce her party switch,” Knecht said in a release. “The New Hanover County Republican Party will continue to support candidates and elected officials that believe in the Rule of Law, accountability, and strong Republican values.”

Hays noted in the email to concerned citizens that, despite the chair woman’s actions, county commissioners are “dedicated to continuing the good work of the county.”

There is no state statute that governs the removal of an elected official from a board of commissioners, unless the member moves out of its jurisdiction or is convicted of a felony, a county spokesperson confirmed.

According to Thursday’s Port City Podcast — a collaborative effort between PCD media partners WECT and WHQR — the last time the New Hanover County Commission attempted to remove a board member was in 2013, which resulted in $100,000 worth of legal fees. Brian Berger — who was arrested on DWI charges twice, as well as possession of a controlled substance — sued the county for an employment discrimination charge, claiming he was forced out of office because had had autism. He was re-appointed to the seat by an order from the Superior Court.

This is not Chairwoman Olson-Boseman’s only pending legal issue. Last year, a former client filed a criminal complaint alleging the attorney took $20,000 as a retainer but never did any work. Gary Holyfield hired Olson-Boseman in 2018 to settle an insurance claim following his daughter’s death in a car crash, but told WECT nothing ever came from it and the attorney stopped answering his calls. 

READ MORE: State Bar probes misconduct allegations against NHC Commission chair; criminal investigation possible

To avoid any conflict of interest, the investigation into that matter is being handled by the State Bureau of Investigation.

Holyfield also filed a grievance with the N.C. State Bar in July 2021. Both the SBI and State Bar are still reviewing the issue.

This article has been updated to state Olson-Boseman was unanimously elected commissioner chair in 2020. Port City Daily regrets this error.

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