The Angier Board of Commissioners scuttled — at least for now — their plans to begin the process of ousting Mayor Lew Weatherspoon Tuesday night.
During a meeting that saw around 50 residents on hand to express their feelings both verbally and by applause in response to others, the board tabled a motion to proceed with a petition of amotion against the embattled mayor.
Consideration of the motion, which had been originally slated to be a part of the consent agenda — normally reserved for routine business that requires little or no discussion before being passed — was moved to the new business portion of the night’s agenda at the request of Mayor Weatherspoon and other citizens present.
The final result was determined after citizens expressed their displeasure with not only the cost of such an action, but with the ongoing feud between Mr. Weatherspoon, Town Manager Coley Price and the board of commissioners.
The debate began with public comment directed toward the issue before the board officially considered action.
“The only thing the mayor has done is try to question some things and learn some things about the town,” local plumbing contractor Larry Barnes said. “I think Coley might have felt threatened by this. I don’t know what his reasoning is for this witch hunt, because he’s had nobody to oversee him since the old mayor was in office.”
Mr. Barnes said the cost of taking the proposed amotion petition to the next step would be a waste of tax dollars.
“I think this costly witch hunt needs to stop,” he stressed. “I don’t know how much it’s going to cost the board or the town for the board to follow through with the board hiring this law firm.”
He went on to tell all parties involved that it was time to move forward and put the town’s best interests ahead of personal feelings.
“I think Coley, the mayor and the board need to get back to work and forget the witch hunt,” he said. “They need to worry about town issues like the dilapidated sewer lines in town and just get along and work together for the better of Angier.”
Longtime resident Edward Martin characterized the proposed amotion proceeding as something that made no sense to those not involved directly in the controversy.
“Addressing the expense, in looking at Mayor Weatherspoon he doesn’t have much hair so he’s not hiding any horns up there,” Mr. Martin said. “He’s not Lucifer and I truthfully believe that with a good board and good management, if Lucifer were elected mayor, he could not do enough harm during his term to justify the money this board is talking about spending to remove him.”
Mr. Martin was referring to the price tag that would see the law firm of Willams Mullin paid $350 per hour to handle the proposal, not including expenses.
Hope Mills’ amotion petition against a board member in September 2013 resulted in a $37,000 legal bill, according to WRAL. In November of that same year, the board member was unseated by election.
Neither the board nor the law firm offered any assessment of cost had the board moved forward.
When the issue was finally addressed by the board itself, Mayor Weatherspoon’s attorney — former North Carolina House Speaker Pro Tem Paul “Skip” Stam — told panel members their efforts would probably fall short of meeting the legal standards required to remove the mayor of extraordinary and extreme actions that are detrimental to the governmental process.
Mr. Stam also noted it would eventually end up in Superior Court where, based on what he recognized as the issues, it would likely be overturned and the mayor would still be in office.
“At the end of the day this extraordinary remedy of amotion will be found as not well founded,” Mr. Stam said. “The mayor would like for you not to proceed with this. But I think your own good judgment should caution you that it is an errand that will disrupt your business, disrupt your town, disrupt your time and cost you a lot of money.”
Commissioner Jerry Hockaday offered a motion to proceed with the amotion petition, which failed to receive a second before a compromise among board members was reached to table the motion.
The table motion passed 4-0 with a subsequent comment by Mayor Pro Tem Bob Smith that the issue could be addressed at a future meeting, leaving doubt about the life of the plan.
“I’m pleased and I think the road the commissioners were going down doesn’t have a happy ending,” Mr. Stam said afterward on behalf of Mayor Weatherspoon. “As they think about it more I think they will realize things can be worked out.”
Mayor Weatherspoon said he harbored no ill feelings toward the board and admitted he wanted to move forward from past missteps, including a controversial vote that involved using an inappropriate method of choosing a member of the Angier Planning Board in December — and the aftermath that followed including redoing the vote in January.
“I wanted to correct the mistake from December and once we did that let’s move on,” he said. “Then all this other stuff came along.”
The other “stuff” included two calls for his resignation and several confrontational talks with Mr. Price, commissioners and town staff.
Additional charges of micro-managing and interfering with town business as well as accusations of intentionally announcing incorrect vote totals and the improper use of secret ballots were intertwined with the mayor accusing one commissioner of tampering with the ballots afterward.
In addition to possibly bringing a close to the drama associated with the vote, the commissioners considered a separate seat on the planning board and considered two candidates.
George Price Jr. and Jay Powelson had both submitted applications for the latest vacancy with a third candidate expressing interest, but submitting his application after the deadline.
Mr. Price, who was the unintentional victim of the first vote, was chosen 4-0 fill the new vacancy.
In other business,
- The commissioners approved the hiring of Alton D. Bain of Bain & McRae, L.L.P. as the new town attorney. He was sworn in by Town Clerk Kim Lambert and assumed his duties immediately.
- The commissioners approved an annexation agreement with Fuquay-Varina to annex approximately 5 acres of the old Hidden Valley Golf Course that was not a part of the original annexation agreement between the two towns.
Story courtesy The Daily Record