Candidates on Nordstrom: 2 sides to every story

By Cindy Beamon

Staff Writer

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CURRITUCK — Former tourism director Diane Nordstrom “never had a harmonious relationship” with County Manager Dan Scanlon whom she claims “practically forced” her to retire, says former commissioner Barry Nelms.

Even so, Nelms said he never witnessed a serious problem between the two.

“I don’t know what all the complaints are that Diane has or had but I think it was a minor tragedy that she left the way she left,” said Nelms.

Nelms, an unaffiliated candidate seeking election to the District 3 seat in November, said he respected Nordstrom’s work in growing the tourism department and was upset to hear she was leaving.

Nelms said he also has confidence in Scanlon’s work. He disagrees with the current Board of Commissioners’ tendency to “micromanage” decisions by Nordstrom, Scanlon and other county staff.

Nelms is among several candidates running for commissioner seats this fall who have different ideas about how the board should handle Nordstrom’s complaints.

In a post on Facebook and a newspaper interview after her Aug. 1 retirement, Nordstrom claimed she was “bullied” into retirement, and charged that Currituck Commissioners are spending county occupancy taxes, a 6 percent levy on vacationers’ lodging, contrary to the intent of state law. County Manager Dan Scanlon and County Attorney Ike McRee dispute both claims.

This past week, some candidates said the board needs to take a closer look at Nordstrom’s complaints; others said they need to find out the facts first.

Nelms said he’s content to leave the decision with the present board.

Republican Mike Hall, who is seeking election to the at-large seat, said investigations — both internal and by an outside group — would help uncover all the facts.

“If you look at it both ways, I think you have a best chance at coming to an answer that is the best answer,” said Hall.

Hall’s opponent C.A. Howard, a Democrat, said he would like to talk with both Nordstrom and Scanlon first. Then board members should come together with all the facts to decide the next step, he said.

“I think everything she says needs to be looked at closely; none are too small or too large. They all need to be considered because she’s been there a long time,” said Howard.

Republican Mike Payment, who is seeking the District 3 seat representing the Grandy area, said an investigation needs to wait until Nordstrom files a grievance. He’s heard a lot of speculation but said he is reserving judgment because he’s not been privy to all the information. Complaints about bullying are serious and need to be addressed, he added.

Horace Bell, an unaffiliated voter running for the District 4 seat vacated by Kevin McCord, said Nordstrom is a good friend and that if she says she was bullied, he needs to listen. He added that every story has two sides and he wants to hear the other side as well. Bell said an investigation into the charge — like the county’s recent probe into complaints against EMS Chief Robert Glover — could shed light into what happened.

Bell’s opponent Republican Paul Beaumont said the issue should be addressed once a formal grievance has been filed. Until that time, Beaumont said he will hold judgment about whether or not the grievance is valid. He added the charge is serious and should be taken seriously.

Janet Taylor, Democrat seeking the 5th District seat representing Moyock against Republican incumbent Marion Gilbert, said she would need to find out more information before deciding the next step for commissioners. The former commissioner said she has a good rapport with both Diane Nordstrom and Dan Scanlon.

“I don’t know both sides of the story,” said Taylor.

Gilbert could not be reached for comment.