Volume 104, Number 35 - August 30, 3007
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Brito out, Boyce and Rock reappointed to P&Z board
The two vacancies on the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) board were filled Monday at the Town Council meeting, yet the position of chair is now open after Mayor Steve Smith, along with the approval of the council, opted to dismiss Robert Brito from his duties.
At Monday’s meeting, Brito approached the council during the citizen’s concerns segment of the evening to get some answers about his standing on the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Board. “Do you still intend to terminate me?” he asked Smith.
Smith declined to answer Brito’s question, saying it would be best to discuss the issue in executive session later in the evening.
Brito then handed out copies of state and town statutes to the council members to review. Having highlighted certain lines within the text, Brito pointed out that there was no statute that stated he could be terminated by the mayor.
“There’s no place on there where it says a mayor can terminate a member of the Planning and Zoning board,” he said, drawing attention to a specific statute that gave the mayor the right to remove people from positions other than members of boards or committees. After questioning Town Attorney Ed Wood about the issue, it was determined that the mayor does have the right to remove members of the P&Z board.
“The mayor does have the authority to remove board members,” Wood said, adding that he does not need to consult the other council members in order to do so. In a statement issued on Aug. 24, Smith clarified that the two other vacancies on the board were in no way connected to his request for Brito’s resignation.
“My request to have Mr. Brito submit his resignation was a decision I made as mayor, and board members do serve at the mayor’s discretion,” he said. “We were advised by town legal counsel that this does fall within mayoral discretion.”
Prior to the meeting Monday, Brito said he thought the mayor may be choosing to terminate him in retaliation for the lawsuit he and Loretta Deats brought against the town and Dave Smith after the last town council elections. Smith later denied the allegations. In regards to the two P&Z vacancies, it was discovered during a review of documents that some volunteer board appointments had not been renewed, Smith said in his statement.
“To meet the requirements of town ordinances, those two board appointments needed to be renewed,” he stated. “ … While the renewal of the board appointments are being addressed, the two sitting board members, longstanding members Paul Rock and Barbara Boyce, have expired appointments and therefore, as legal counsel has told us, are not on the board until appointments are updated.”
Smith said Boyce and Rock have every right to seek reappointment, but applications would continue to be accepted. “At this point, we were required to advertise volunteer board openings, which we have done,” he said in the statement. Rock said he did submit his application on Aug. 20, the date of the original deadline, but was unaware of the reasons why the town chose to extend the deadline to Aug. 31.
The actions and past service of Boyce and Rock had no impact on the decision to open up the vacancies on the board, Smith said in his statement.
“The fact that we are seeking to bring board appointments in compliance with town ordinance is absolutely no reflection of the volunteer service provided by Mr. Rock and Mrs. Boyce,” he said. “I am deeply appreciative of their years of service, sometimes a thankless and challenging job. Our town owes a debt of gratitude to all of our volunteers on all of our boards.” The conflict created by these issues is something Smith said will work itself out in the future.
“Some of this conflict comes as a symptom of our town’s growing pains, and I am optimistic that we all are working toward the same end result, wise planning facilitated in the most effective manner possible,” he said in the statement.
During the citizen’s concerns portion of Monday’s meeting, Rock asked if he and Boyce were still on the board or not and asked for legal justification as to why their terms ended.
“The terms expired,” Wood said. Smith clarified that the town will be looking into the expiration dates of all the boards and they’re not just picking on the P&Z board.
Rock then questioned the mayor about who would be present at the P&Z meeting scheduled for Monday if there are two vacant seats and the chair is removed. Wood said the three people with valid memberships would be at that meeting. “If Paul and I and Robert are off, that only leaves two,” Boyce said. “You don’t have a quorum.”
Smith assured Boyce that the meeting would have a quorum. Council member Nylla Kunard then asked if the council had to wait to appoint new members to the P&Z board until the deadline expires.
“It would seem prudent to wait until that period is over,” Wood said, adding that if the council members wanted to, they could appoint members right then and there.
Curious as to why the deadline for applications was now Aug. 31, Rock asked why it was extended, to which no one had an answer. Rock questioned what changes Smith was hoping to make with the dismissal of Brito, to which the mayor declined to comment. “I have a lot of ideas,” Smith said. “I could list them, but I choose not to.” After hearing the rest of the citizen’s concerns and other business, the council members went into executive session to discuss personnel issues.
After returning, the council voted unanimously to reappoint Boyce to the board for a three-year term effective Sept. 1. By a 3-to-1 vote, the council reappointed Rock to the P&Z board for a three-year term, also effective Sept. 1.
Smith told Brito he was terminating him from the board. The council, in support of the mayor’s decision, then voted unanimously to dismiss Brito from the P&Z board, effective immediately.
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