Politics

Hope Mills Board bullies Mayor

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During Monday night’s meeting, Commissioner Larson made a presentation:  she’s drafted an ordinance which states all five board members must be present for any presentation/request to buy or lease municipal property.  No member of the board can discuss the buying or leasing of land unless all five are present. Her ordinance does not include the mayor, who is also a member of the board.

Commissioner Bellflowers reminded the board, they already do this, but town attorney Dan Hartzog clarified, whereas the current rules stipulate there must be a quorum, the new ordinance goes a step further by requiring all five board members be present.  It should be noted, the board only needs a simple majority to sell or lease municipal land.  Larson’s ordinance makes it harder to know about an offer, than to actually accept and sell the land.

Bellflowers countered by pointing out the ordinance leaves a loophole allowing commissioners to avoid meetings.  If any commissioner objects to a certain proposal, because it conflicts with their personal agenda…or a friend’s agenda, they could simply stop the presentation from being made by not attending the meeting.

The board voted 3/2 with Commissioners Bellflowers and Edwards voting against adopting the ordinance.  This vote required a super majority, and therefore did not pass.

Commissioner Larson immediately asked Hartzog if she needed to place the item on the next meeting’s agenda.  When an issue that requires a super majority fails the first time, it can be reconsidered by the board.  The second vote does not require a super majority.

In the past, only a member of the prevailing side could bring the issue before the board for reconsideration.  However, that has changed and any member of the board can request reconsideration.  Much like the conflict of interest rule, this one leaves room for elected officials to manipulate the system. It leaves room for BOTH sides to manipulate the system.

Since we can assume Larson, Mitchell and Legge will vote to approve the ordinance, if any of them are absent at any future meetings the other two commissioners  can ask to reconsider.  With a 2/2 vote, the Mayor would cast the deciding vote.

There’s very little point in requiring a super majority during an initial vote if you can simply pass the ordinance two weeks later with a simple majority.  But, there’s very little point to this ordinance.

The board wasn’t scheduled to conduct a closed session during this meeting, but Commissioner Mitchell requested one and they moved to the conference room.  Most of the audience left and just a few citizens and staff stayed.  About 30 minutes into the closed session Mayor Warner left the conference room visibly distraught.  She gathered her personal items and left the building.

When the rest of the board returned, they voted to seal the minutes of the closed session, then Commissioner Mitchell broke the confidentiality of the closed session and announced that Mayor Warner had resigned before she left.  He asked the attorney to call her and confirm whether it was her intention to resign her position as Mayor.

Commissioner Legge also broke the confidentiality of the closed session by saying “It’s because of her son’s involvement with Lone Survivor.  Every time he’s mentioned she gets bent out of shape.  I don’t think she means the things she says.”

The board didn’t indicate what exactly was said about Mayor Warner’s son in the closed session.  But closed sessions are only allowed to discuss personnel issues.  Any discussion regarding a member of the board must be conducted in open session.  It’s unclear which member of the board broke this rule.

To clarify, Mayor Warner did not tell the board she was resigning when she left.  She instructed the police officer outside the conference room to tell the board she was leaving because it had become a hostile environment and Commissioner Mitchell had her permission to finish the meeting.

Two sources have confirmed Commissioner Larson has been bombarding Robert van Geons and the staff at Cumberland County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC), where Mayor Warner’s son works, with public records requests.  A previous request was made for all correspondence between town staff and CCEDC staff and between Mayor Warner and the Mayor’s Coalition.  That request encompassed more than 400 emails.

Town staff confirmed last week that no citizen, other than me, requested those same emails, but a former Mayoral candidate posted a video on Facebook in which he reads from emails that were part of the public records request.  He didn’t get them from me.  He also did not get all the emails.  He was given a select few, which were taken out of context.

While most of us moved on after the board rejected LSF’s final offer, it would seem some members of the board have not.  And while all concerns of collusion between Mayor Warner and her son were disproved months ago, some members of the board continue to dig for an imaginary smoking gun.

 

 

 

 

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