During the Norlina Town Board’s July 1 meeting, Latarshia Turner-Brothers, representing a group of concerned citizens, asked the board how the town would find a replacement for Public Works Director Blaine Reese, who plans to retire later in the year.
The Warren Record was unable to attend last week’s meeting, but requested that a citizen audio record proceedings so that the newspaper could provide information to readers about what transpired.
In the recording, Turner-Brothers asks whether Reese’s position would be open to the general public and how they would find out about it. Norlina Mayor Dwight Pearce and Commissioner Jimmy Overby are heard replying that the position is open to the public, and that it had been advertised in The Warren Record since January for six months.
Newspaper records indicate that the town advertised for the position of public works crew leader-back up operator in responsible charge four times, twice last November and twice last December. No ads were run for the public works director position.
The newspaper contacted Pearce last week for further clarification about the advertisement. The mayor said that he believed the position was for a crew leader whom the town wanted to work directly with Reese in the hopes that he or she would be prepared to advance into the position of public works director after Reese’s retirement, believed to be in September. Pearce added that the position was still open.
During the town board’s previous budget discussion, board members mentioned their hope that someone could learn from Reese and could grow into the public works director’s position.
The newspaper also contacted Allman about the incorrect statements regarding when the advertisement ran because she was the person who placed the ad last year and would have had direct knowledge of the correct answer to Turner-Brothers’ question. She said that she did not correct Pearce and Overby’s statements about the length of time the advertisement ran because she did not think it appropriate to do so at the time.
Allman added that Turner-Brothers had spoken out of order and not during the usual time for public comments. However, the audiotape of the meeting clearly indicates that the mayor did not call Turner-Brothers out of order and that he carries on a conversation with her, answering her questions as he has done with other citizens during meetings in the past.
A record of Turner-Brothers comments was not included in a draft copy of Allman’s minutes from the meeting. Allman said that she did not include Turner-Brothers’ comments because she was talking out of turn.
Allman said that she had been taking much more detailed minutes of town board meetings in the past, but that classes she was taking with the University of North Carolina School of Government suggested that everything that takes place during a meeting does not have to be recorded in the minutes word for word.
However, North Carolina Open Meetings Law states that public bodies “shall keep full and accurate minutes of all official meetings” and does not allow for omission of discussions that take place outside of time allotted for citizen comments or at other times during an open meeting.
Turner-Brothers told the newspaper that she asked questions during last week’s board meeting on behalf of a group of concerned citizens who hope that more Norlina residents will become active in town matters by attending board meetings and being willing to partner with the town board and help them if needed.