Board accepts $11K payment
By William F. West and Jon Hawley
Saturday, July 21, 2018
HERTFORD — The Albemarle Commission Board of Delegates voted Thursday night to accept an $11,000 check from the agency’s executive director to resolve a conflict of interest involving her husband.
The board voted to accept the check from commission Executive Director Cathy Davison following an hour-long closed session. Delegate John Mitchener, a Chowan County commissioner, led the unanimous vote.
During an interview earlier on Thursday, Davison explained she had decided to refund the commission the $11,000 after learning that hiring her husband’s firm, NENC Project Solutions, to manage the construction of a new building for the agency violated state law.
“Had I known about the state statute, I would have never made that recommendation,” Davison said, referring to North Carolina General Statute 14-234, which states public employees may not derive a “direct benefit,” including a benefit to their spouses, from a contract with a public agency.
The commission’s April 2017 minutes show Davison disclosed to the board at the time that her husband Jim Davison worked for NENC Project Solutions. Davison claimed Thursday she didn’t know her husband actually owned the firm until after awarding the contract. She also said that at the time, she didn’t think his involvement constituted an illegal conflict of interest.
When she recently learned awarding the contract did pose a conflict of interest, she decided to refund the $11,000 herself to try to resolve the matter.
“It’s from me personally, from my personal account, because I feel so strongly about it, that my integrity has been questioned, and by no means did I want to have personal gain from moving to a new facility,” Davison said.
There was no discussion by the board about Davison’s apparent conflict of interest during the open session of Thursday’s meeting.
Prior to the closed session, the board discussed proposed revisions to its bylaws and workplace hour regulations with its attorney, John Leidy. The only other two topics that generated some discussion were whether the board should allow public comment at Thursday’s meeting and whether the commission needed a public relations officer.
Delegate Sandy Duckwall of Camden pointed out the commission’s bylaws require its meeting agendas to include a period for public comment.
Board Chairwoman Marion Gilbert of Currituck, however, said Thursday’s meeting was a work session, suggesting the public comment period wasn’t required.
After board member Lloyd Griffin of Pasquotank pointed out that Thursday’s meeting was the delegates’ scheduled monthly meeting. Gilbert amended the agenda to allow for a public comment period.
Two members of the public, Holly Audette of Elizabeth City, and Dawn Giordano, former finance director for the commission, addressed the board.
After the closed session, Gilbert asked for a motion for adjournment. Before the meeting ended, however, Elizabeth White of Currituck told fellow board members the commission needed a better way of communicating with the public
“I think that there has been enough press out there that we need to have a communications strategy,” she said.
White said she didn’t know if the commission has someone in charge of public relations, but it needs someone with that responsibility.
“We should perhaps take that fairly seriously going forward: how we engage with the public and keep the public informed,” she said.
After Gilbert directed White’s request to Leidy for his review, she adjourned the meeting.
Afterward, Davison said she was glad the board had voted to accept her check.
Asked about White’s request for a public relations or media specialist, Davison said that would be fine, but noted the commission already has a media program that includes weekly updates to the board and public.
If the commission wanted to hire a person to serve strictly as a contact for the media, the board would have to budget for the position, she said.