More details are emerging from the ongoing war of words between Angier Mayor Lew Weatherspoon, Town Manager Coley Price and the Angier Board of Commissioners.
Those issues will likely be a substantial part of the next board of commissioners meeting slated for Tuesday night.
A line in the sand was drawn during a special meeting Jan. 24 when Town of Angier commissioners voted unanimously to take the steps necessary to remove Mayor Weatherspoon from his post.
“The smart thing to do would be for him to move on and let this town move forward,” Mr. Price told the board. “But his ego won’t let him.”
Prior to the vote, commissioners discussed at length the effect the mayor’s actions have had on the 28 employees of the town — four of whom have indicated to Mr. Price they are considering resigning.
“We cannot, cannot absolutely let what’s taken place over the last 20 or 30 years fall,” Commissioner Alvis McKoy said. “You cannot lose the employees of a town and start over again. There’s no way.”
Mr. Price said the current situation between the three parties has created a common bond between town employees.
Made Staff Stronger
“I have never seen a staff more resilient than the one I have,” he said. “What’s happened over the last year has brought us together so strong it’s unbelievable.”
Mr. Price indicated to those present — which included Mayor Weatherspoon — both himself and town employees have reached the point where their relationship with Mr. Weatherspoon cannot be repaired.
“I met with the staff and I met with every employee and they’ve had enough,” he said. “I’m going to be honest, I’m going to be just blunt straight honest, you know I shoot straight, their comments are a leopard’s spots will never change and who voted for this man should have to work for him to see who he really is. That’s the staff, it’s not me.”
One of the staff members, Public Works Director Jimmy Cook, told the mayor he no longer trusts him to do his job.
“My philosophy is I trust you until you give me a reason not to trust you,” Mr. Cook said referring to comments he made during a prior meeting with Mr. Weatherspoon. “Whether you cuss or fuss or whatever, I trust you until you give me a reason not to trust you. And mayor, I’m going to say, I don’t trust you. And it’s because of the stuff you’ve done.”
The issues stem from a multitude of actions the mayor has been accused of taking in not only public meetings, but in private situations with employees.
“I have 28 employees that don’t trust him,” Mr. Price said. “When I tell you I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough. Nobody should be put under this kind of stress, nobody. Two employees told me this morning this crap has got to stop, we’re tired of all this drama. It has to stop.”
Mayor Weatherspoon has been accused of micro-managing town business and becoming involved in areas of the town’s operation town officials feel he has no business intruding upon.
The most public elements of the current storm came in the Dec. 6meeting of the board when the mayor allegedly altered ballots used in a vote to fill a spot on the Angier Planning Board.
Two men were nominated to fill the seat — current member Paul Strohmeyer and challenger George Price Jr. — which requires commissioners approval.
Mayor Weatherspoon called for a vote on the two candidates by a secret ballot. Then after he tallied the ballots, he declared the commissioners vote 2-2 and then broke the deadlock in favor of Mr. Price.
In a subsequent inspection of the ballots, by not only town officials, but byThe Daily Record, the tally appeared to be 3-1 in favor of Mr. Strohmeyer.
Mayor Weatherspoon’s actions on Dec. 6 violated the North Carolina General Statutes covering such votes.
The statute prohibits secret ballots as well as written ballots unless they are signed by the person casting the ballot, are read into the minutes of the meeting and are made available to the public until they are a part of the minutes.
During the Jan. 24 meeting, the mayor openly accused Mr. Price and Commissioner Craig Honeycutt of tampering with the ballots before they were handed over to Town Clerk Kim Lambert.
“I did not think the ballots — as they currently are — which are the ballots that Craig carried that night, I did not think those are the ballots that I looked at that night,” the mayor said offering an explanation. None of the statutory requirements were met, according to both Mr. Price and Mayor Weatherspoon, resulting in a new vote during the Jan. 3 meeting.
It was at that meeting on Jan. 3 the commissioners unanimously issued a censure to the mayor and initially requested his resignation, which he immediately refused to do.
The censure also included a desire to see him vacate his office in town hall and return any town records he had secured inside a locked cabinet to the town.
According to Mr. Price, he did comply with all clauses of the censure, but when the cabinet where the records were secured away from other town officials was opened, it was full of only empty folders.
During the Jan. 24 meeting when Mr. Price asked Mayor Weatherspoon why he was refusing to step down, he cited the wishes of the public.
“I have been told by the citizens that they want me to continue to do what we’ve started,” he said. “I will not resign.”
In an email to Mr. Price from Mayor Weatherspoon on Dec. 12, the mayor issued an apology and offered an olive branch to the board.
“Let me begin by saying that it is apparent that I made a mistake in the counting of the ballots that were taken for the position on the town planning board,” he wrote. “Once again, I apologize for the error, but I assure everyone that it was not done with any ulterior motive or any attempt to sway the outcome of the vote. Again, I apologize and will work diligently to insure that nothing like that ever happens again.”
He went on to admit to the violation of state statutes as well.
“As it turned out, the entire voting process was flawed and not in compliance with NC GS 143-318-3,” he wrote. “Had this process been followed, quite possibly my mistake would have been avoided. We can, however, correct this mistake by having another vote at our January 2107 meeting.”
In the email, Mayor Weatherspoon also addressed other issues that have been raised in subsequent meetings, including the meeting Jan. 24.
“Since day one of my term as a commissioner and now as mayor, it has been my desire to see Angier grow and become a more prosperous town that everyone would be proud of,” he wrote. “Rather than hearing people running down the town down, I wanted to give them something that they could boast about.”
The mayor also agreed he may have stepped over his boundaries, but did offer a commitment to create a better atmosphere.
“In my zealousness, I apparently went too far in getting involved in the day-to-day operations of the town,” he wrote. “That will cease immediately. Future calls that I might receive from residents, I will direct them to the town manager or will hear their concern and forward it to the town manager for disposition as he sees fit.”
He also addressed other issues brought up in the censure and later in other meetings.
“I will also make every attempt to educate citizens that call me that I have no authority, in accordance with N.C. General Statutes, or otherwise to direct staff how to carry out their duties. I will explain under the form of government we have in the Town of Angier, day-to-day operations are the responsibility of the town manager and at the direction of the town board.”
He went on to address the areas concerning the amount of time he had spent at town hall prior to the censure.
“I will limit my time at the town hall to those times when I have a meeting with a citizen or the town manager,” he wrote.
“If there is a meeting that the town manager is conducting and he feels that I should be an observer, I will attend at his request. I would like to be involved in major meetings concerning transportation, telecommunications, education and economic development.”
He closed the email to Mr. Price expressing a desire to rebuild a solid relationship, something Mr. Price and the board continue to believe is not nor will happen.
“I hope that I have not left anything out and that this new direction will be acceptable going forward,” he wrote. “Gentlemen, it’s obvious that we have the same desire for our town. My prayer is that we can come together, put past differences behind us and move forward for the betterment of the Town of Angier.”
Mayor Weatherspoon was elected mayor in November 2015. He beat the former mayor, R.H. Ellington, by three votes. Courtesy The Daily Record