Hertford uses barrier to separate 2 councilors
By Peter Williams
The Perquimans Weekly
Friday, May 17, 2019
HERTFORD — Call it the Great Divide. The Hertford Barrier. Or the Jackson-Eley Wall.
Whatever it’s called, a physical barrier is now set up in Hertford Town Council chambers to comply with a judge’s order that two members of the town’s governing board be kept apart.
The barrier — one side wall of a standard office cubicle — is designed to keep Councilors Quentin Jackson and Sid Eley physically separated.
On Thursday of last week, Chief Superior Court Judge Jerry R. Tillett found Jackson — Hertford Town Council’s mayor pro tem — in violation of the conditions of his pre-trial release because he has had contact with Eley by virtue of their attendance at council meetings.
A District Court judge found Jackson guilty in January of assault on a government official for hitting Eley in the head with a closed fist following a town meeting last October. Jackson appealed Judge Eula Reid’s ruling to Superior Court, but as one of the conditions for his release, Jackson was ordered to have “no contact, direct or indirect” with Eley.
To ensure Reid’s order is followed until Jackson’s appeal is heard in Superior Court or the order is modified, Tillett signed another order that allows Jackson to perform his job as a Hertford councilor, provided he meets certain conditions.
One is that Jackson be separated from Eley by a physical barrier if both are attending council meetings. Another condition allows Jackson to call into a council meeting Eley is attending. He also can be in the same room as Eley as long as the distance between them is more than 20 feet.
Tillett’s order also revoked Jackson’s previous unsecured bond and set instead a $15,000 secured bond.
The barrier was used for the first time at Hertford Town Council’s special meeting Monday at 6 p.m. Jackson did not attend that meeting but he did attend the council’s regular meeting at 7:30 p.m.
At Monday’s meeting, Eley sat on the left side of the partition wall and Jackson sat to the right of Mayor Horace Reid, who sits on the barrier’s right side.
Jackson said it’s up to Tillett to determine if the partition wall will be enough to comply with his order.
Jackson is scheduled to return to court on July 9 to face an unrelated charge of felony perjury. A Perquimans County grand jury handed down an indictment, agreeing with prosecutors there is evidence Jackson perjured himself while testifying in court in a separate legal matter. Jackson was asked by prosecutors if he was on probation during his trial on charges of displaying a fictitious license plate and resisting an officer. He testified that he was not. A check of records indicated that he was on probation at the time he testified that he wasn’t.
If found guilty of the perjury charge Jackson could face at least five months in jail and, because the charge is a felony, lose his right to vote and hold elected office.
The special meeting Hertford Town Council was scheduled to hold became itself a matter of some controversy Monday.
Council was supposed to discuss the town’s social media policies at the meeting. However, the meeting started late and ended just four minutes after it started.
The meeting was scheduled to start at 6 p.m., but it was 6:18 p.m. before it got underway. At 6:22 p.m., Council Member Frank Norman made a motion to table the only two items on the agenda, saying all members of council should have a chance to review them before a discussion was held. He apparently was referring to Jackson, who did not attend the special meeting.
Some of the dozen residents who attended the meeting were not pleased by council’s decision to table the policy discussion.
“We come here with sincerity and we are were prepared,” said Muriel Harmon. “To call us out to a special meeting and it adjourned in four minutes?”
Harmon wasn’t the only member of the public who was upset.
“Can you check with council before you waste our time?” Connie Brothers asked Norman.
During the regular meeting, council asked Eley to step out of the room because it wanted to talk about the money it claims he owes the town. Eley, as is the case with the town’s other volunteer firefighters, has been paid a bonus by the town based on the number of calls he responds to.
Jackson has said those payments violate a town policy because council members aren’t supposed to receive any taxpayer funds from the town other than the salary they get for serving on the council.