The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

January 24, 2013

‘Unethical’ conduct leads mayor to question board’s actions

By Ian Faulkner, Staff Writer

Friday, January 25, 2013 — Alan McGuire, head of the planning and zoning board for Oakboro, spoke during open forum, expressing concerns over a check written by the board of commissioners and approved at last week’s special meeting.

The check in question was made out for the charity Relay for Life in the amount of $500.

“There are two issues that come up,” McGuire said.

His first issue was with board member Chris Huneycutt, whom he said had connections with Relay for Life and did not disclose this conflict of interest (One of the co-chairs for Stanly County Relay for Life last year was Brandi Huneycutt, but it has not been verified if there is a relation between the two).

“My other issue is with tax payer money going to charity that’s not budgeted and not the tax payer’s choice or have the option for the choice. I came by the next morning and asked for a copy of the check and found out the check had been written a week ahead of time.”

The check was made out Jan. 8 and the meeting to discuss the check was Jan. 15.

“It made the special meeting seem meaningless, and it made a mockery of the process,” McGuire said.

“I did want to point out in our yearly budget under our general fund, we do have a line item for grants and donations. There is a $4,000 amount budgeted for the year. I’m not saying this is where it falls,”  Board member Georgia Harvey said later in the meeting.

Huneycutt spoke up, saying  that they had heard McGuire’s comments and they could create a policy to prevent this in the future. Huneycutt defended the board’s actions, citing general statute 160A-20.1.

As the meeting was coming to a close, Mayor Danny Long addressed the board and audience.

“As a mayor and a taxpayer, I am very disappointed with some of the decisions that this board has made,” he said.

“The ideology that they can call each other on the phone and call it a board meeting is unethical and is not to be tolerated by this mayor.

“It has happened on several occasions and it’s not right ...

“They have made it legal tonight by policy, but this policy was established by telephone.

“The instance where the check was done prior to people calling and getting an opinion and making decisions ... When that check came across my desk I put it up until a special meeting was made because it was done unethical. It is my job as the mayor to protect you and to protect the integrity of this board.

“I’m not here to be friends, but I’m here to do a job that you have elected me to do and that is to keep integrity in this board. To keep the ideology of calling and making important board decision over the phone is not right.

“The money that the taxpayers gave went to sponsor the entertainment.

“It is not in the budget.

“I have to live with myself and I have to do what is right.

“They made legal what they had already passed on by telephone call.”

Long said that people may not agree with him on issues, but they all have to adhere to the law and ethics set out for the board.

“It must be adhered to and as mayor I’ll make sure it does.”

“Mayor I have comments,” Harvey said.

“No, ma’am, you can not,” Long said.

“Well I’m going to take the floor, because I take offense to the fact that you’re accusing board members of doing things illegally. I have not,” Harvey said.

Harvey expressed that she was offended by the mayor’s comment, relaying that he made a blanket statement for all board members that was “unfair.”

“Thank you for clarifying that,” Long said.

Long spoke about the incident a little bit further in a phone interview the next day.

“It was the way it was done,” Long said.

“The amount or the charity has nothing to do with it.

“It’s a good charity. I don’t mind helping anybody, it’s just the way this was done.

“That was the reason I had to speak up.”