Citizens of Clayton,
As your elected officials, we are obligated to inform our citizens of the facts regarding the appointment of our new town manager.
1. An elected body cannot take action in closed session. There was a closed session on December 21, 2020 during the last council meeting. The majority felt Mr. Solomon should go through the hiring process. Again, we cannot vote in closed session and no action was taken when we came out of the closed session. Councilman Everett was present in this meeting.
2. In the days after our council meeting, Councilman Art Holder reached out to the other council members and Mayor individually by phone and let us know he thought we should proceed with hiring Mr. Solomon, that he had reconsidered his opinion. Mr. Holder asked for a special meeting and the Mayor declined, saying he would not call a special meeting nor call a closed session for personnel. The Mayor said if we wanted to do this it would have to be done in the open session and we would have no more discussion on the topic. The Mayor Pro Tem passed this message along to the three council members who requested the meeting. December 23, 2020 at 4:45pm, Mayor McLeod told Mayor Pro Tem Thompson by text, “No special meeting is being called just this will be the first item on the agenda for the regular meeting.” This message clearly shows that Mayor McLeod understood the wishes of the majority of the council as of December 23, 2020, not January 1st as reported to a local media outlet.
3. The agenda went out Friday, January 1, 2021 and Councilman Everett had four days to review it, including Monday before the meeting. Councilman Everett never once reached out to any fellow council members asking why this item was on the agenda, or what we thought about it. Remember, the agenda item was set by the Mayor, not the council members. Councilman Everett has been mostly non-responsive to texts, phone calls and emails from other council members over the last year. The requested special meeting would have allowed Mr. Everett the opportunity to be present and discuss the matter.
4. Mayor McLeod talked with Mayor Pro Tem Thompson by phone Sunday night before the meeting. The Mayor told the Mayor Pro Tem that he had also reviewed the information packet from our search firm detailing Town Manager candidates. Mayor McLeod said he was not pleased with the pool of candidates and felt Mr. Solomon would be at the top of the list. Mayor McLeod also said he and the Mayor Pro Tem needed to meet with Councilman Everett soon to discuss Councilman Everett’s lack of participation and the importance of him being involved. The Mayor said Councilman Everett needs to be reminded of the importance of council communication and be more responsive to phone calls, e-mails and text messages. Mr. Thompson informed the Mayor that Councilman Holder felt the Mayor should talk with our attorney about a potential contract. Mayor McLeod said, “I’m not talking with him, they can talk with him if they want to.”
5. On January 4th, Council Member Holder and Mayor Pro Tem Thompson had a conference call with JD Solomon and the attorney to talk about a general contract and if there were things in the previous manager’s contract that needed to be changed or removed. Again, this was a legal phone call (only 2 council members on the call) so no violation of meetings laws occurred. No action was taken and there was no direction given to the attorney. It was a discussion regarding items that could potentially be in a contract for Mr. Solomon. The only three items discussed were: potential salary, vacation time and removing a specific term for the contract allowing it to be terminated at any point by either party without a specific year range. It is quite common for two council members to have discussions with the manager and attorney.
In conclusion, this council is well educated regarding North Carolina meeting laws and the council always takes good care not to violate the law. As elected officials, we must lead 24/7. Town business does not stop for two weeks between meetings. It is imperative we communicate with each other regularly. Contrary to Councilman Everett’s allegations, there was no meeting of the council nor council members between the December 21, 2020 and the January 4, 2021 meeting. It is the responsibility of the council to hire the best person to carry out the duties of Town Manager for the next few years and we firmly believe we have done that.
Mayor Pro Tem Jason Thompson, Councilman Art Holder, Councilman Michael Grannis, Councilman Bobby Bunn