Norwood residents address multiple concerns with town council, staff

Published 9:02 am Tuesday, August 10, 2021

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Heated words were exchanged between Norwood citizens and the town’s council and staff at the most recent council meeting.

Addressing recent social media posts about the town and its staff, Mayor Linda Campbell stated neither she nor the council members or staff could speak about personnel issues.

“If we did, we would be sued,” Campbell said.

Adding she wanted to clear something else up, Campbell asked town attorney Jim Phillips if there were any lawsuits pending against the town since the hiring of Town Administrator Scott Howard.

“Not to my knowledge,” Phillips said.

Beverly Johnson, a former mayor and council member of Norwood, spoke first in the public comments section of the meeting.

Johnson stated her support of the town’s former clerk, Kelly Caudle. She said she had never heard Caudle be rude to an irate customer. She said she had never asked Caudle for information where the clerk had not been prompt and professional.

Brad Plummer said he believed the way the town had released people from their jobs was improper.

Saying this “really pushed his buttons,” Plummer said Howard “disrespected some females in this town. I know he’s tried to make moves on certain employees here and was denied.”

He further accused Howard of suggesting to one individual that “he wanted to see her in a negligee.”

“You’re supposed to be a representative of our community. Is that really proper as a man who represents us? I don’t think so,” Plummer said. “Disrespecting the women of this town is not proper.”

Plummer asked about town policy regarding mobile homes, saying he was denied because he was told the town “was trying to keep the riffraff down.”

“Well, if the riffraff is me, we’re here to stay,” Plummer said.

LaTonya Wall spoke about her son who worked for the town, saying he has been discriminated against because he is Black.

“He is the only Black boy on the town of Norwood (staff),” Wall said, noting her son has put in a two-week notice because of what was said to him. She said he had been called “boy” and mentioned “other stuff.”

“My son (doesn’t) deserve this,” Wall said. She noted he works for the fire department on weekends.

“I don’t want my son to give up his job because somebody is discriminating (against) him. It’s not right. It’s not right at all,” Wall said.

Dorothy Inman, another resident, asked the board if they received a monthly report about staff being hired or fired.

Mayor Pro Tem James Lilly said he and others “get emails almost every day.”

Inman said a “red flag” would go off in her head if a number of people were hired and fired in a short period of time.

Terri Locklear, whose husband Chris had worked for the town in the water and sewer department, asked Campbell to “watch (out for) your employees…see how hard they work. Even if it makes other people mad, take up for them.”

Velvet Beeks called the town about a new water meter on a property on Hinson Street.

Beeks said Howard answered the phone and “was extremely rude” to her. She said the manager accused someone of putting her up to calling the office and said he had “all day to listen to you argue.”

She asked about open positions for the office and the hiring process for those jobs.

Beeks said it was not “a race issue,” but asked why in the 60 years she has lived in the town had she not seen a minority employee working in the office.

“A town is made up of all of us, not just one race or two,” Beeks said.

Chris Locklear spoke in the comments section, complimenting Wall’s son for being a “hard worker.” He said the town “won’t let him run the equipment” and “he is a good kid.”

Locklear asked if the town council was “selling out” the water and sewer department. He said the town did not have anyone on staff certified to work on the system.

“If a 12-inch main blowed out right now, who would you call? Who’s going to fix it?” Locklear said.

Councilman Robbie Cohen said RDR, Inc., a contracting company located in the western part of Stanly, would handle emergencies.

A heated exchange then happened between Locklear and Howard. Locklear asked the town administrator to look at him, to which Howard said, “You’re not calling the shots.”

Howard then exchanged words with another audience member and several people started to raise their voices. Plummer was asked to leave the meeting by Campbell, saying he had blurted out several times “and we are going to keep order.”

After the comments session closed, Campbell said she wished she could talk about the personnel situation.

“I wish we could give answers. I’ve seen all the remarks…we can’t discuss somebody’s personnel record,” Campbell said.

When asked from the crowd about posting open positions, Campbell asked Howard to make sure open positions are posted.

“We’re going to change that from this day forward,” Campbell said.

She noted Howard was in charge of the interview process.

“We all have jobs. We don’t come in and sit in there for interviews.”

Campbell also answered questions from the comment session regarding the water and sewer department.

“The questions was asked, ‘Is Norwood selling out?’ I’ll clear that up for everybody,” Campbell said. “We have gone up on our rates for the last four years insanely high.”

Noting the town has had to rehabilitate the sewer plant, Campbell said she had signed more than $7 million worth of funds to be spent on the sewer and another project.

“We are looking for every avenue possible to bring the sewer and water rates down for the citizens of Norwood,” Campbell said. “So, yes, we have explored it. We have talked to the county; we’ve had several meetings with the county. If we can do something to lower the rates for the citizens of Norwood, that’s what we were elected to do. So, yes, we are thinking outside the box.”

Campbell said in meetings with the county some town employees would become county employees if the town was to make a deal with Stanly for water and sewer.

“We are not going to sell our employees out,” Campbell said. “We are going to take care of those employees.”

She said talks with the county will continue “if we can do something to lower these water and sewer rates, then by God we will do it.”

Campbell also referred to a comment about the water plant being a “gold mine.”

“If it’s our gold mine, why are we losing $400,000 every year,” she said. She said the money is coming out of the town’s fund balance every year.

Campbell also said the system is “dilapidated.”

“It’s not a gold mine. It’s not a new system.”

In an email to The Stanly News & Press, Howard said “one of the values that council and I hold dear is protecting and valuing our employees. In order to protect them, I cannot discuss personnel matters.”

Howard also responded to a question regarding public comments made at the meeting.

“Regarding the public comment section, the Town Council and I all support the First Amendment, so our citizens are free to say whatever is on their minds. I will not make any remarks on statements made during public comment portion of the meeting.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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