Wendell commissioners are lining up for and against a proposal by Mayor Harold Broadwell to seek the resignations of people serving on town advisory boards who have sued the town.
The town continues its battle with residents opposed to the Pepper Pointe expansion after the plaintiffs appealed the ruling which dismissed the case against the town.
"The action by William Neal Conoley et al vs. Town of Wendell and Pepper Street Inc. ... has cost the town nearly $30,000 and the ongoing appeal is likely to add another $6,000 to $8,000. In the end this action, when you consider employee time lost in connection with the proceedings and other 'hidden' costs, is going to add or has already added 1 cent to our tax rate. Yet some of these same parties, and their supporters, complain about our tax rate," Broadwell wrote.
Broadwell says there is a conflict of interest for people who sue to the town to also serve on advisory boards that serve the town.
In his e-mail addressed to all five Wendell town commissioners and town department heads, Broadwell says he would like to ask for the resignations of any opposing party currently serving on an advisory board and not to appoint or reappoint any person suing the town to a seat on those panels.
Commissioner Sid Baynes was quick to take exception.
"In this proposed action I see evidence of an attitude that those who disagree with us are wrong and that they should be discounted and even have their opportunities to speak and participate restricted and/or eliminated," Baynes wrote in an e-mail response.
Reached today by telephone, Baynes said the issue stems from a mayor who has no authority to vote on board appointments trying to sway others to vote the way he wants them.
"My feeling is that philosophy works OK if it's a dictatorship or if you're in a business where one person makes the decision," Baynes said.
Baynes said he welcomes opinions even from people who oppose what the town has done in the past. He points to a judge's ruling several years ago in which residents accused the town of improperly trying to annex their property into the town limits. "The judge said the town was wrong. Does that mean everyone on the board should have resigned?" Baynes asked.
Baynes said he sees no conflict of interest because commissioners are not obligated to accept the advice of advisory boards or from individual members sitting on those boards.
Broadwell declined to comment on the e-mail. "With the firestorm that erupted last night, I'm just not going to talk about it," Broadwell said.
But Broadwell was not alone in his feelings. Commissioner Bill Connolly supported his idea.
"If a person is not with us often they are against us. In this case if you are not with us you are definitely against us. Every time I look at our senior citizens as they struggle to pay for medicine ... I think about this lawsuit," Connolly wrote in response to Broadwell's missive.
Commissioner Carol Hinnant sided with Baynes.
"Well, so much for free speech and the right to have a dissenting opinion. Why don't we just put all of them in a concentration camp and call it a day? I sincerely hope this is a joke."
Commissioners are scheduled to consider board appointments later this month. As of today, the town had only three applications from people interested in serving on a town advisory board. None of those applicants are party to the Pepper Pointe lawsuit.
However three people currently serving on boards — Glenn Harris on the Board of Adjustment, Charles Kramer on the Planning Board and Jenny Melton on the Tree Board — are parties to the lawsuit.