- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - House Republicans opened the door Wednesday for the chamber to formally investigate North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, based on a lawmaker’s allegations she issued notary public commissions to people who live in the U.S. illegally.

A House committee voted along party lines to allow the full body to consider a resolution - possibly as early as Thursday - to create a special panel for investigating Marshall, a Democrat first elected in 1996 and the longest serving member of the Council of State.

The resolution, which only needs to pass the House to be enacted, would give a 15-member investigatory panel - with Republicans in the majority - the option to propose impeachment articles for a possible trial in the Senate.

The probe request came from GOP Rep. Chris Millis of Pender County, who months ago received records from Marshall’s office that led him to believe more than 300 commissions have been issued to people with no legal residency status. Notaries must show legal residence in the United States.

Marshall said her office has done nothing wrong. Millis said she needs to be investigated for possible malfeasance.

“There is clear and convincing evidence in this wrongful action by the secretary,” Millis told the House Rules Committee. “The evidence shows that the secretary has ignored the law, usurped legislative authority and engaged in conduct that only undermines the public trust in government.”

Millis held a news conference in March calling for Marshall’s resignation, saying documents he received from Marshall showed her office routinely accepted DACA cards in lieu of green cards as proof of legal residency for the purpose of becoming a notary. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy allows certain immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally as minors to receive, in part, eligibility for a work permit.

Marshall has said she followed state and federal laws and policies by accepting three other proper forms of identification - none of them DACA cards - to prove legal residency.

“The public should continue to have full confidence in the integrity” of more than 144,000 notaries in North Carolina, Marshall said, adding. “I can only conclude that this is a political attack and nothing else.”

Democrats on the committee called the effort tainted by politics and would lead to what Democratic Rep. Beverly Earle of Mecklenburg County called a “witch hunt.”

“Rep. Millis has made up his mind,” House Minority Leader Darren Jackson of Wake County, a committee member. “This is about a lot more than the Secretary of State’s office. This is about the integrity of this house and how this process is going to be used.”

Millis cited a newspaper story last September - during the general election campaign - which reported Marshall’s office may have commissioned immigrants living in the country illegally as notaries public. In response, Millis requested information from Marshall’s office.

Marshall senior adviser Mike Arnold told the committee that the Secretary of State’s office is willing to keep discussing residency qualifications for notaries with legislators, but opposes the resolution being formally introduced.

Arnold said that when he hand-delivered the records to Millis, the Republican candidate “who ran against Secretary Marshall was there to receive the records in the office … So we feel like politics is a part of this.”

In North Carolina state government, a majority of House members can vote to impeach a Council of State member for committing a felony or a misdemeanor “involving moral turpitude, or for malfeasance in office, or for willful neglect of duty.” The Senate would hold a trial on any approved impeachment article, with removal from office a punishment.

Some Republicans who joined the majority in the 18-10 vote in favor of introducing the resolution in the final days of this year’s work session remain skeptical about jumping to conclusions about Marshall’s culpability.

“I’m going to need something that meets a high standard,” said Rep. John Blust, a Guilford County Republican.

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