‘Friends’ seek response from state leaders

Published 12:09 pm Friday, April 8, 2011

For a group of Bertie County citizens, it’s all about protecting the interests of the general public.

In lieu of a near $52,000 annual increase given 19 months ago to Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb, members of the Friend’s of Bertie – Rescind the Raise Committee have written letters to a pair of local state legislators, asking them to publically speak out against the salary and benefits hike.

“We have asked for our elected state legislative leaders for Bertie County to look into this matter and to speak publicly on it,” said the “Friends” group in a press release sent earlier this week. “We are looking to our elected leaders for leadership in holding all public officials accountable to the highest standards in transparency, openness, and honesty in the handling of the peoples business.

“No statewide raises we know of have been granted during this economic crisis,” the press release continued. “We are hoping Senator (Ed) Jones and Representative (Annie) Mobley will point out to the Bertie Commissioners that correcting this situation is the right and honorable thing to do for our citizens, the region, and the state.

“What must people and businesses outside of Bertie be thinking about our common sense? Would they relocate here knowing these things happen and are not corrected? We are asking for our state legislators help and their support to Rescind the Raise,” the release concluded.

The letters (shown below) to Jones and Mobley were mailed April 4. Each was signed by Ronald D. Wesson on behalf of the Friend’s of Bertie – Rescind the Raise Committee.

“On behalf of The Friends of Bertie – Rescind the Raise Committee, a grass roots, non-partisan organization within Bertie County that was organized in objection to the 46% increase in compensation given to County Manager Zee Lamb, we write to you and ask that you speak publicly and condemn this outrageous breach of public trust.

“Over the last three years, our county commissioners have repeatedly told county employees that any salary increase at all would be “irresponsible” based on economic conditions within our county, state, and the nation. At the very same time, these same commissioners allowed Mr. Lamb to write his own new employment contract and they approved this shocking increase in total compensation without any public discussion. At the commissioners last three commission meetings, citizen have flooded those meeting demanding the rescission of Mr. Lambs increase. Dozens of ordinary citizens stood during those meetings and pleaded with the commissioners to explain this offensive decision. Not a single citizen has voiced public support for this action.

“As a respected elected representative of the people, we pray that you would join the outcry from citizens all across Bertie County and publicly call for the rescission of Mr. Lamb’s increase. Consider that prior to this 46% increase, Mr. Lamb was already the highest paid county executive in the surrounding counties by a 21% premium.  We have no personal grudge or vendetta against Mr. Lamb.  In fact, most would agree that Mr. Lamb has done a good job as county executive, but his performance in no way would warrant such a huge increase. The written minutes of the closed session where this increase was reportedly approved makes absolutely no sense. That record reports that not a single question was asked in regards to any aspect of Mr. Lamb’s new contract or increase. No discussion of the 42% increase in base compensation, no discussion of the doubling of Mr. Lamb’s travel increase and not a single question was reportedly asked about the 127% increase in Mr. Lamb’s retirement benefit. The Friends of Bertie – Rescind the Raise Committee, as well as local media, have asked for the tape of those closed session discussions and the commissioners have refused our request. Our attorney assures us that we have a right to that tape and we will ask the courts to confirm that right.

“This whole matter comes down to fairness and transparency in local government. On behalf of those county employees who have been repeatedly denied increases over the last three years and on behalf of the citizens of Bertie who seek justice in this matter, we ask you to speak now and that you speak publicly. The overwhelming numbers of citizens of Bertie want this increase rescinded and we urgently need leadership from you as soon as possible to help resolve this matter.

“The Friends of Bertie – Rescind the Raise Committee will post this request as well as your anticipated response on our Facebook site (The Friends of Bertie – Rescind the Raise Committee). We look forward to your prompt response.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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