Sparks fly between Commissioners

Published 8:26 am Tuesday, October 8, 2013

JACKSON – Two veteran Northampton County Commissioners used the end of Monday’s regularly scheduled board meeting to voice their displeasure with each other.

Board Chairman Robert Carter and Commissioner Fannie Greene exchanged remarks about the Code of Ethics the board uses to carry out the business of the county. This came after a request by Greene to be reimbursed approximately $400 for the expenses she incurred while attending the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners annual meeting held Aug. 23-25 in Greensboro.

“She (Greene) made a request of this board; what is your position on this request, keeping in mind that when the budget was adopted for fiscal year 13-14 it was so approved that no funds were in the budget to cover expenses by commissioners for travel to conferences, etc. That was the budget we adopted….right,” quizzed Carter.

“But we see other department heads going (to meetings) and we only have one going; and we are members of this organization (NCACC) at a $2,400 (annual) membership….if you are going to pay that membership I feel you need representation at those meetings,” noted Commissioner Chester Deloatch.

“There have been other budget amendments before. I thank Mrs. Greene’s for supporting us at the statewide level,” said Commissioner Joe Barrett.

Carter asked County Manager Ken Creque where would the funds come from (within the current year budget) to reimburse Greene for her expenses. Creque said he did not have a line-by-line copy of that budget with him at the time, but he believed there were funds in two particular portions of the budget that could cover Greene’s expenses.

Assistant County Manager Kim Turner noted there was money in the budget for travel, but only if a commissioner used a county-owned vehicle for travel, and that money could only be used to offset the cost of putting gas in that vehicle.

Deloatch motioned for the county to reimburse Greene for the two-night hotel stay in order to attend the NCACC annual conference and for the mileage to and from Greensboro in her personal vehicle.

“I don’t mind anybody going to a meeting, but we agreed when planning for this year’s budget…we specifically stated at that time and everybody on this board knew the position of this board (as it related to travel expenses) and for someone to step outside of that position and do whatever they choose to do is inappropriate….and that’s all I have to say,” Commissioner Virginia Spruill stressed.

Barrett seconded Deloatch’s motion.

“In the front of your board book, there is a Code of Ethics Policy as adopted by this board on Sept. 9, 2009,” said Carter. “Look in the front of your book….the sixth code of ethics. There’s no need to adopt something you are not gong to follow.”

Upon calling for a vote on the motion, Deloatch, Barrett and Greene were in favor of the reimbursement with Spruill and Carter in opposition. By a 3-2 majority, Greene will be reimbursed.

“Before you walk out of here saying I’m unethical,” said Greene, but was interrupted in mid sentence by Carter who said, “You’re not following the Code of Ethics.”

“I do follow them, Mr. Carter,” Greene said.

“I said read what bullet six says….the last part of that says, if it fits you that you are not abiding by, then that’s what it is,” Carter said.

“I accepted the decision of this board and I went to the conference; when I found out later there were funds available (for reimbursement) I made a request (for those funds),” Greene stated. “There’s nothing unethical about that.”

“The only thing I have a problem with is that this came about when we talked about that (travel/conference attendance) at budget time and everyone on this board supported that,” Carter remarked. “I am very disappointed in the actions of this board today. I hope we will grow up.”

“I’m very disappointed in you Mr. Chairman,” said Greene just as Carter asked for a motion to adjourn the meeting.”

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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