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Changes aimed at last-minute board appointments in Currituck

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

CURRITUCK –  Proposed changes to a local ordinance are aimed at preventing commissioners who are going off the board from being appointed to other county boards by votes taken at their last official meeting before a new board takes office.

The subject came up near the end of a Currituck Commission meeting July 16. County Attorney Ike McRee presented proposed changes to clarify membership on the boards.

McRee noted some current county commissioners have stated concerns about a departing commissioner, voted out of office, being appointed to a board by the previous commission, before the incoming, current commission took office.

McRee wasn't more specific, but he was referring to what happened in early December 2016.

That's when the previous commission, in a 5-1 vote at its last meeting, put then-Commissioner Vance Aydlett on the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Aydlett had lost the May 2016 Republican primary to current Commissioner Bob White.

Aydlett wasn't present for that final meeting in early December 2016, but he was appointed to fill a vacancy on the ABC Board resulting from the death of Gary Barco.

The ABC Board oversees the operation of liquor stores in the county.

During the July 16 commission meeting, McRee said the change would specify a person who holds the office of county commissioner could not be appointed to a board at the commission’s first meeting in December, unless the person is beginning a new term of office at that first meeting in December.

McRee said after a departing commissioner leaves office, he or she could be appointed to a board at the second commission meeting in December.

Additionally, McRee said the change would specify those interested in serving on such panels first provide the county with a “statement of interest.” McRee said this would let the county commissioners know who they are and on what board they would like to serve.

Also, McRee said those interested in serving would be allowed to serve only on one board at a time.

McRee said there has been confusion about being able to serve on one board at a time because panels such as the ABC Board were created by state law. He said he believes the intent of the county ordinance is a person may serve on no more than one county-appointed panel.

Changes to the county ordinance required a unanimous vote, but two of the seven commissioners, Kitty Etheridge and White, did not attend the July 16 meeting. So, the proposed change was approved 5-0 after the first reading. The commissioners will take up the matter at the July 30 meeting, where only a simple majority is needed to approve the changes.

Commissioner Etheridge, when reached later by phone, said she was one of those who asked County Attorney McRee to look into the matter. In early December 2016, she was in the audience in the county commission meeting room waiting to be sworn in.

Etheridge and others watched a majority of the out-going commissioners vote to put former Commissioner Aydlett on the ABC Board.

"We didn't think it was quite right," Etheridge recalled.

During that early December 2016 meeting of the departing commission, Commissioner Marion Gilbert, with a second from then-Commission Chairman David Griggs, led the vote for the appointment of Aydlett, as well as the appointment of businesswoman Sybil O'Neal, to the ABC Board, effective immediately. Commissioner Mike Hall cast the lone no vote.

Gilbert has stood by her actions. Gilbert has also said she made the appointment of Aydlett to fill Gary Barco’s seat after consulting with Barco's widow.

Commissioner Etheridge, after taking her seat on the current commission, tried, without success, to undo the appointments of Aydlett and O'Neal to the ABC Board. Only Commissioner Hall joined her in support.

Etheridge over the phone made clear the current commission has gotten along quite well and works well together. "Bygones are bygones," she said.

However, she said that, "If I go out in two years, I don't think I should be put on any board that I want to be put on. I should be treated just like every other citizen in the county."

Commissioner White, when reached by phone, said although he defeated Aydlett in the May 2016 GOP primary, he frequently talks to Aydlett and asks Aydlett for advice.

White said that in early December 2016, he probably even would have appointed Aydlett to the ABC Board if Aydlett had approached him.

Still, White said he believed the new commission should have been given the courtesy of making the appointments to the ABC Board.

His only difference of opinion with the proposed changes to the ordinance is he doesn't see a problem with a person being able to serve on more than one board at the time.

But, he said, "If the will of the board is to only have those individuals serve on a single board, then I'm OK with that, too."

Commission Chairman Bobby Hanig, reached by phone, said the proposed changes aren't a dig at what happened in early December 2016.

"This is nothing other than really doing some laundry, just making sure that protocols are put in place," Hanig said.

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