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"You Are Wrong."
February Town Special Meeting
March 4, 2024

n the wake of the resignation of Public Works Director and Water System ORC Andrew Cox, and with the dock repair bid ready to go, a special meeting was called, February 27 at 8a to discuss the next steps in both cases.

About 100 people were in attendance – around 90 more than at a typical meeting. Nearly eighty-five were inside, some standing two rows deep. Twenty or so stood on the porch listening through the open door.

Thirty-five signed up for public comments. Why? Largely because of Cox’s statements on why he was resigning.

The crowd inside Town Hall at Tuesday’s meeting.

TownDock.net records all meetings, and writes the report from that recording. Links to prior articles with documentation are at the end of the article.

A resignation
In an interview with TownDock.net, Cox said was resigning because of the stress the staff was under; they were feeling unappreciated. And also because one town Commissioner was making the working environment untenable, and even began questioning why he was taking his son to school.

His resignation letter also cited staff shortages, discussions regarding staff cuts, and his inability to continue being an effective manager with the work load of two positions.

He said he did not believe Commissioners Bonnie Crosser or Frank Roe “value the employees here.” The questioning of staff arose after the financial liaison position was created.

The financial liaison position
At a pre-organizational meeting, newly elected Commissioner Bonnie Crosser wanted to install and become the town financial liaison – a position that had existed in 2011 when Oriental operated under a different form of municipal government. The government structure was changed in a 5-0 vote, December 2011 as a newly elected Board was about to take their positions, and the position went out with the old government.

Both the town’s lawyer, Scott Davis, and a representative, Anne White, from the League of Municipalities – who administer many trainings the Commissioners attend – “advised against following this course of action,” which Crosser also noted in her emails to the other Commissioners.

She argued that there was nothing saying the position couldn’t exist, ignoring the legal advice saying it could cause problems with the staff. The chain of command is that Commissioners are to direct the manager who then directs the staff.

Mayor Sally Belangia, Commissioners Frank Roe and Bonnie Crosser.

Both Davis and White pointed out that Crosser had the option to look at those documents at any time without the liaison appointment – they’re public record and available to everyone.

Crosser also failed to provide other Commissioners with the description of the liaison’s duties up to and after the December vote.

Crosser pushed for the position against advisement, saying she did not interact with the staff and that the position was only to review documents and report her findings to the Board.

Commissioners voted for the position at the December 2023 meeting, 4-1. Only Commissioner Breena Litzenberger opposed, though Commissioner Charlie Overcash argued against it.

At the February 2024 meeting, resident Mary Ellen Ham addressed Commissioners saying she’d been hearing was criticism of the staff and rumors of staff cuts. Commissioner Litzenberger, also newly elected, said she’d heard the same rumors and asked Commissioner Crosser to ‘assuage my fears’ that the liaison position was not being used to cut town staff.

Commissioner Crosser avoided saying she was not trying to cut staff, only that she was there to look at historical data.

In her first report to the Board as financial liaison, given at the February Meeting, Crosser began by saying she “had not found any fraud.”

Emails from Town Hall show that Crosser’s multiple requests for documents put a burden on town staff, prompting the Town Manager to institute a one week time frame from request to delivery.

Commissioner Breena Litzenberger said the Board needed to work together as a whole on the finances.

As part of her description for the liaison position, Crosser also provided instances of ‘discrepancies’ that weren’t truly discrepancies. They’d all been openly discussed in front of prior Boards of Commissioners and at public meetings.

Additionally, Crosser is also the liaison of the newly reinstated Water Advisory Board. Crosser set the date for the auxiliary board meetings. The first two were held in January without Oriental’s ORC Andrew Cox, scheduled while he was on vacation and again when he was performing biweekly state mandated water testing.

The Water Advisory Board was revived to oversee the spending of the $5.5 Million in state funds meant for Oriental’s Water System.

The Meeting
Commissioner Crosser arrived in a mask. Commissioner Price arrived late, also wearing a mask.

(Excerpts from all public comments are listed at the end of the article. What follows is a summary of the comments.)

The majority of speakers called on Commissioners to do their job and stop nitpicking, to inform citizens of what is going on, to be open and transparent by discussing everything out in the open at meetings.

Several called for Commissioner Bonnie Crosser to do the right thing for the town and resign, others called on Commissioner Roe to resign as well.

Former Commissioner Sandy Winfrey called on Commissioners Crosser and Roe to resign.

Joe Valinoti called on Commissioner Allen Price to remember “he serves the town and not these two Commissioners.”

Other comments focused on the unique nature of Oriental as a town where business owners and residents had staff and Commissioners on speed dial, or that their issues were seen to promptly.

A few residents called for calm and a less emotional response, one said to discuss it with the Commissioners themselves rather than believing rumors, and another (husband to Commissioner Crosser) cited an article from the Journal of Accountancy giving examples of municipal fraud.

Some spoke of having the discussion to raise taxes – but to have it openly and with the public.

Commissioners listened to residents overwhelmingly say they did not want the liaison position, and they did want Andrew Cox to return.

A motion to rescind & discussion
After public comments, Commissioner Overcash – who originally voted for the position – made a motion to rescind the financial liaison position. Seconded by Commissioner Breena Litzenberger.

Commissioner Overcash opened the discussion: “Fact, our lawyer advised us against this position. Fact, the League of Municipalities advised us not to have this position.” He continued by reading out the auditor’s letter of the internal controls finding “no deficiencies in the design or operation of that internal control.”

His last fact: the position had created turmoil. He wanted to do away with it.

“Commissioner Crosser’s explanation of what she wants to do sounds like that micromanaging. I want to say that when this position was debated early on, I voted for it after protesting based on what I’ve said today, and I wish I had not. It doesn’t matter because we had a majority. The position is superfluous because any resident or commissioner can go in and look at the financials.”

Commissioner Allen Price says he has no problem with the liaison position.

Commissioner Allen Price said he had no issue with what the position was trying to do. He read a statement he’d brought with him. “An audit is not designed to find fraud. It’s designed to provide reasonable assurance that the financial statements provided by management accurately reflect what management has said the organization is doing.

“So I have no problem with us making sure that we have all the proper, generally accepted accounting protocols, checks and balances, and cross training as necessary. We still need to do this… or have somebody do this.”

Commissioner Litzenberger said she believed the position started with good intentions, but “when there wasn’t any instances of fraud and there, wasn’t any discrepancies that maybe it devolved a bit into, um, some nitpicking and some micromanaging.”

Litzenberger pointed out that there were checks and balances and that one person did not handle all the finances. At one point, she asked Town Manager Diane Miller to describe the checks and balances in the office.

Jean White finishing her comments from the crowd.

Checks and balances in place
“We have dual checks and whoever takes the money in during the day is not the person that takes it to the bank in the afternoon,” said Miller. “When we have bills come in, I sign the POs [purchase orders], so I see how much money is going to be encumbered.

“Tammy [Cox] writes the checks, checks to make sure the check against the invoice, the commissioners sign them. I sign them. So four different people have to have their hands on any bill that goes out before it leaves the building.

“Money that comes in, comes into one person and is counted by a different and that individual takes them to the bank.”

Miller continued adding that in the instance of fraud with Bay River Metropolitan Sewer (mentioned by a resident and Commissioner Litzenberger), she had “warned the Bay River superintendent at the time, having one person doing it all is what sets you up for failure.”

After her hiring, Manager Miller says she also instituted a new billing system that automatically carries over information in the system and logs each person that works in the system. “So we know who entered what, who’s responsible for what should be in that drawer.”

Litzenberger acknowledged the stress of having someone “who is going to be saying how much money is allocated to your position trying to come in and find discrepancies.”

She also suggested bringing in an outside person if the issue is internal control review. “Now that we’re Commissioners, we’re the government. So for us to be auditing the government is kind of redundant.”

Commissioner Crosser again cited the training Commissioners attended for the Unit Assistance List, saying “the governing board – this board – has oversight responsibility regarding the internal controls. We can’t sit back and not look at what’s going on with internal controls.”

Crosser also said the North Carolina State Treasurer’s Office says that board members “spot check transactions and review supporting documents. Board members review account reconciliations. Board members encourage rotating duties.”

The town already does this. Commissioner Price opens all incoming statements. Commissioner Overcash and Mayor Belangia also sign checks. And all documents can be reviewed by any resident by request.

Additionally, the Unit Assistance List training Crosser mentions is given by the League of Municipalities. The same body that advised against the liaison position.

Crosser continued, “If you have a personal issue with me doing this service, I’m a certified public accountant with the state of North Carolina. I was doing it. If you don’t want me to do it, fine. Then we need to pay a position to have this done.”

Commissioner Roe listening to his constituents.

Commissioner Roe said he “absolutely, categorically, supported Bonnie Crosser. She is honest, she is hardworking, and she is working to make sure that we are good stewards of taxpayers’ money. That’s what you should do. There has never been any discussion by this board about cutting, firing, reducing any staff. Never once.” He continued saying the budget was not set by this Board and about 67% of the town’s money is “committed to pay the people.”

Roe said the town infrastructure is crumbling and he was instrumental in getting the $5.5 Million in funds from the state for the Water System. Roe said Cox’s resignation surprised him.

A member of the audience cut in over Roe saying, “we should ask him to stay.” Roe said he didn’t understand how “the morphing of looking at how we are stewards of your money to we want to fire the employees” came about “because it’s not true.”

That was the reason for the liaison position, he said, to “take every penny that we can and understand it or raise taxes.”

“Does Frank Roe want to vote to raise your taxes? Ain’t gonna happen. I won’t vote for it.”

Raising his voice as he spoke, Roe finally asked the audience, “Why is everybody all tore up about understanding where our money goes?”

As a way of supporting Crosser, Roe said she had found out from a reconciled statement from July that shows $800,000 is in First Citizens bank and the town earned $71 in interest and paid $560 in fees this month.

(According to Deputy Finance Officer Tammy Cox, what Roe did not mention are the town’s accounts in Charlotte, or the monthly earnings from those accounts – between $1k and $1.4k a month. He also did not mention that staff, by law, must deposit funds every day and that is why funds are kept at a bank in town.)

Roe continued, “I’m sorry that you guys are upset. I’m sorry that Drew is leaving. But if you think Bonnie is wrong, you are wrong. And if you think this board is trying to fire people, or Bonnie Crosser is trying to fire people, you are wrong and you’re not listening to the right people.”

George Midyette said town employees had come to him ‘to have their back.’

Commissioner Liztenberger said she didn’t think any of the Commissioners were against fiscal responsibility, but rather that the Commissioners shouldn’t “be this in the weeds.”

“Should it be like when Bonnie suggested, somebody we hire or something. The Commissioners as a whole should work together for financials. That’s why we have the budget workshops. That’s why, you know, we are a commission of five. We should work together. You know, even you guys going down to the County to speak on our behalf when you weren’t directed to do so. And that is really Diane Miller’s position to go do that.

“You know, we are a commission of five. Let’s work together. Let’s look at the budget together. There’s no need to have a finance liaison position for one of us to dig deep and in the weeds when we shouldn’t be in there.”

After their discussion, Commissioner Overcash called for a vote on the motion to dissolve the financial liaison position. It was voted down, 3-2, with Commissioners Crosser, Roe, and Price opposing.

Jennifer Pawlikowski asking the audience who are there to support the town staff to raise their hands.
Awarding the bid for the town dock repair
Manager Miller met with CAMA about permits for the repair. “With no permit, we can replace 50% of the substructure not including deck boards.”

The diver inspecting the dock said 8 of the 15 pilings are at 40% or less.

There is a bid for $13.8k to make the dock safe, which would get the dock ready for the April boat show. Manager Miller is still hopeful for the USDA funds to come through for the Hodges Street repair, meaning they would also remove and replace the dock as part of that project.

Miller and Harbor Waterfronts Committee recommends the $13.8k. Commissioners voted 5-0 to accept the bid for $13.8 from Bobby Cahoon, with the contract going out as soon as possible.

Water System ORC replacement
Miller discussed the time it took to get Andrew Cox certified and up to speed on the water system when the prior ORC left.

Miller has two options for contracting with other ORCs in the county: Ed Riggs, County Commissioners and superintendent of Craven First Sanitary and Jeffrey Sanders, ORC for Pamlico County.

Oriental can contract with Sanders at a minimum of $2,500 a month for ORC duties. Miller said she did not have an amount for contracting with Riggs for the backup duties. She and Cox are working to determine which town staff have the licenses needed to cover the backups so they may not have to be contracted out.

Commissioners authorized the Town Manager to get an ORC on board as soon as possible.

Daniel Early was authorized to take over the day-to-day operational duties.

End comments
Manager Diane Miller said she wanted to express her deep gratitude to Andrew Cox for his work and that it would be a huge loss for the town. “I understand that he has limits. We all have limits. And I can’t blame him. But I certainly wish things went a different way and we were able to keep him on staff.

Commissioner Overcash said he would like Commissioner Roe’s assistance in coming up with a way to show their appreciation for Cox. Roe agreed.

Commissioner Roe thanked the County Commissioners for their help in sorting out the ORC and water plant issues and to the residents for getting involved.

Commissioner Litzenberger thanked the residents for being there, changing schedules, and getting involved. She said Cox was “one of the best.”

Commissioner Crosser thanked Cox for his support, “especially for parks and rec.”

The meeting was adjourned.

Mayor Sally Belangia reading letters from residents.
Public Comments:
Selections from each speaker, giving the substance of their comments, are below.

Mayor Sally Belangia read out four letters:

From Julie Rahm: “Talk of cuts, even those created by not filling vacant positions, destabilize the staff as they wonder how their already full workload will increase. We are fortunate to have talented and dedicated individuals working for the town, whose careers are about more than a paycheck. Town staff members deserve respect and consideration.”

From Sherri Hicks: “Many folks are very upset about what is happening. Maybe the problem lies with the town commissioner. As a former enlisted soldier in the Army and Marine Corps officer, I have always been taught to use common sense. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Please give out hardworking town manager and employees your full support. They deserve to be recognized for all the ways they make this town work successfully without being micromanaged.”

From Spencer Litzenberger (husband of Commissioner Litzenberger): “I’d like this letter to represent both my support for our public works program and my disgust at how they are being treated. We need these people. … We like that we have police in town. We like that someone cares about our drinking water. We like that when there is a storm, people are in place to take care of our residents who might not be in a position to handle the situation. That is a community. Writing that seems silly, but apparently that’s where we are. “

From Jennifer Pawlikowski (who also spoke at the meeting): “Being one of the larger employees in town, we know firsthand what a struggle it is to find good employees. We’d like to urge you not to reduce our services and retain the good employees we have. The level and number of services we get are a direct correlation to the number of visitors and in turn the amount of business we get.”

Jean White Wife of former Commissioner David White: “I spoke at a meeting 20 months ago to decry the insidious cowards behind the flyer passed around our village. With one distributor having said, we’ve got to get rid of Diane Miller. After that meeting, I was berated for being unprofessional by now seated Commissioner Bonnie Crosser in front of her home.” Commissioner Crosser made a call to order, suggesting White was not following the directive in the Public Comments ‘to address the full board, not an individual board or staff member.’

White was telling a story of an interaction with Crosser, not speaking to her specifically. Both Mayor Belangia and Charlie Overcash said it was the right of the people to speak.

From the crowd, Butch Rasmussen called out, “She shouldn’t call names.” White responded she hadn’t called names and continued, voicing support for staff, warnings of future staff departures to follow, and the statement that she would beg Drew Cox to return.

“If it be the covert intention of some commissioners to close our water plant and move to county water, they should be forthright in stating this in a public meeting with citizen participation, rather than forcing out the one person who holds the proper credentials to administer the plant.”

Don McGuire gave his time to White to finish speaking.

Gregory Bohmert asking people to approach the issue with less emotion.

Sandy McGuire spoke to not reducing the police force: “I’ve moved here to paradise. And I have the comfort, I’ve been to Chicago, too. So, I feel the comfort of having our police here.”

David White (former commissioner): “When I learned Drew had resigned, I asked him why. He stated that the current hostile personnel environment by two board members, Frank and Bonnie, are creating the fact And the fact that one of, that, that Bonnie had questioned why he took time to drive his son to school in the morning with strong reasons why he resigned…It seems no one is questioning his performance or his ability to do his job. And I can assure you that Drew more than makes up for those times.”

White continued, calling out Commissioners by name – though not addressing his comments to them directly: “It seems that several members of the board, Alan, Frank, and Bonnie, do not understand this and insist on meddling in the day to day activities, whether it’s where the speed limit radar is assigned to the place, telling employees how to do their job, regularly pestering the manager with petty requests, complaining why one drives their child to school, and Bonnie running into the office saying, I’m looking for discrepancies.

Why? Are we looking to fire somebody? All this is creating a toxic working environment. “

Anne Wichrowski (wife of officer Wichrowski): “Why are these things being kept from the public? Who has had their opinion solicited in regards to these items? Not me. What is your end game?

“Has any of this been thought through? And if You succeed in achieving any of them, which you have the votes to do, and which seems to be all you care about. What will you do with the money the town would otherwise have spent on these items? There are a lot of questions, now let’s have some answers”.

Sandy Winfrey (former commissioner): Addressed Roe & Crosser by their titles. “Good morning. Commissioners Roe and Crosser. I would like to point out that this system has run almost flawlessly for 10 years. Y’all are two meetings deep and we have a few people resigning.

“What does that say? What does that say? I would like to point out also that up there is no place for a witch hunt or a personal agenda. The ball has started rolling. It’s not going to stop. Everything back there is the good of the community and the people in it. Your actions are a prime example of poor leadership.

“And if I have assessed you wrongly, and the good of the town really is on your mind, then you should resign, because that’s the best thing you can do for the town.”

Gail Good: passed out a list of points to commissioners from which she read: Issue a C&D order for micromanaging, harassing & stalking, dissolve the financial liaison position, advertise for needed jobs, request Cox withdraw his resignation, accept audits as they are given.

“Allow all employees to assist their families when necessary. You know, I was a school administrator for 20 some years and families come first. You all can be replaced. Families can’t.

*And lastly, I want you to remember that Oriental is not New York City. It’s not LA. It’s not Chicago. Et cetera. We are a small town where we take care of each other. We care about each other. And we did not go out on witch’s hunts.”

Eric Kindle talking about the choices everyone makes to help the community.

Bill Kepp: “Clearly the financial liaison position is controversial and Bonnie, I’m disappointed that you’re looking for fraud necessarily, having been a member of decent size Community Bank for almost 40 years.

“Yeah, fraud’s a concern, audit findings, those sorts of things are a concern, but in 38 years we’ve never found fraud. But for this group, as an example, to look at internal controls, dual control, those kinds of things, that goes to the view from 40, 000 feet.

Kepp mentioned that with inflation, “if we have to adjust taxes down the road, then tell us. And I’m sure we’ll have more input and we can make decisions together.”

Tom Stone: “This is paradise, this is heaven. When I hear about any cutbacks or any complaints about our management and the staff, it makes me sick. And I would happily pay a lot more so we don’t lose people that we have running a five week tuned machine.”

Bob Slook: Thanked public works for attending to their questions and concerns immediately and being so responsive.

“In terms of the commissioners, I attended a meeting last fall where I distinctly remember one saying, I’m not here to micromanage or get into the details.

“What I’d like to see from you in a constructive manner is how this town compares to other like towns, both, you know, financially and in terms of services offered and, and we have to stop this, you know, petty stuff over whether, you know, somebody drives the child to, to school in the morning or, or whether the dog rides with, with Officer Bills in the car.

“I mean, that’s, that’s not what you guys are here for. Run the town. Deal with the big issues.”

Bob Miller (former Tree Board chair): Said he had been through 4 town managers while on the tree board and that Diane Miller was the best.

“You lost a good man. I mean, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. You had an opportunity to not do this, because you were warned by the town’s attorney, you were warned by the state and municipal government, don’t do it, because you’re going to open up a can of worms.

“You did it, and you opened up a can of worms, and you broke the town. As far as I’m concerned, your next job, you’ve got to try and put it back together, because you really messed up.”

Bob Miller said the Commissioners should be ashamed for what they had caused.

Gregory Bohmert: “I think most of us are here because we’re all emotionally upset. Now, the town crew has been great. I’m sorry to say I’ve not seen a lot of town people die of heart attacks. They die of obesity. I mean, we all work at a steady pace. But what I’m trying to get at is I don’t think trying to do best management practices makes a commissioner an evil or a mean spirited person.”

Bohmert went on to caution the public about reacting with emotion.

“Not one can usurp this board. You’re going to need five people, or at least three out of five, to think it’s a good idea. And when we come up here and we cast these aspersions and character assassinations, that’s really not helping anyone, it’s damn sure not helping the town. So I would just encourage everyone to kind of cool off, take the emotion out of it, and just deal.

With the facts as they come up, one at a time.”

Jennifer Pawlikowski: “I’m here to support them [the employees]. I have, no understanding whatsoever of why we would allow good employees to leave us. It is impossible to hire people here. The majority of people are retired. And we have a hard time replacing people when they leave. Every single time.”

George Midyette: “You’re elected officials. You need to talk to your electorate. There are problems with employees in this town – I’ve had them come to me personally. I kind of help with employees at work. So they know that I got a feeling for it. And they asked me to have their back. I don’t know what the deal is. I can’t have it. I don’t have the facts.
But I am here for them.”

William Marlowe: “We’re going to end up with open positions on the board and on the crews that we’re not going to be able to fill. It’s impossible to get people to work here. People just don’t wanna work, they specifically don’t want to work in Oriental. Cost of living here is impossible for the lower pay grades. You just can’t find people – we’re going to be stuck.”

Darlene Marquart: “It reminds me of corporate. You bring someone in, and they’ve got to make major changes.

“No one wants to follow their lead, but they want to keep leading. Their goal is to make changes. People do not often look at the long term effects of their changes. Are we really looking at what it would do to our town? To lose Andrew? To lose Diane? To lose all the workers? To lose control of our water?

“What’s it going to do to the town people? It’s going to divide them. People are going to be unhappy. People are going to be angry, disappointed, frustrated. That’s not the town we have here.”

Marquart went on to say that if people wanted that kind of ‘corporate’ style, then they needed to go “someplace else where they feed on that kind of stuff.”

“Why are you doing what you’re doing? Think about it. Look in the mirror. Think about it. Look in the faces of the people of the town. What is it going to be like 2 years from now, 5 years from now, 10 years from now?

“Will you even be here? Do you really care?”

Nelda Coats: “There’s a proper chain of command and there’s a proper way of doing things. As an employer, I never jumped a supervisor when I needed, when I had personnel issues. I always went through the supervisor because that would make my employee feel that they’re not appreciated, that they’re not allowed to do their job.”

Ginger Barnett: “And as for Andrew going to pick up his son, or taking his son to school, do you know how many times he’s here working when nobody knows about it? And he’s been here? I mean, this is petty stuff, to lose somebody as experienced as him. I mean, it’s crazy.

“I’ve worked with all these people. The other night, she’s [Town Manager Miller] on vacation. I come by here, 9:30 at night, she’s in here working on her vacation. Do you all know that? You know, you don’t understand what’s going on around here. You come into this town, and you just micromanage it. And it’s not a town that needs micromanaging.

“This town worked really well before you got here. So sit back, take a look, and then think about what you want to do.”

Joe Valinoti: “We can’t fire Commissioners. But we can certainly call on two of them to resign. Allen (unintelligible) figure out he serves the town and not these two Commissioners.”

Valinoti continued saying he’d served as a Councilman in New Jersey and was not without knowledge.

“These people need to go. You can’t do a recall, it’s too expensive, but they can resign, which is the honorable thing to do.”

Richard Lambert (Commissioner Crosser’s husband) pointed to an article in the Journal of Accountancy as to why the liaison position was needed.

Richard Lambert (husband of Commissioner Crosser): “Drew, if you’re making career decisions on rumors, I wish you the best.”

Lambert held up an article from the Journal of Accountancy “on why there should be audits done and reviews of financial documents.”

“The intent isn’t to go witch hunting, the intent is to prevent any misuse of funds.

“Marguerite, the lady that wrote this article, cites a lack of financial literacy among elected officials. You are fortunate. You have two that are CPAs. One’s a currently licensed CPA. And you have an ex CEO that knows how to run an operation.
A culture of blind trust is another reason. We absolutely love our employees and trust them. Blindly so, apparently.”

Lambert continued saying the financials had not been reviewed for ten years, other than by an auditor once a year. “And an auditor looks at what’s handed to them. They don’t look into what’s handed to them. That’s one of the flaws of people thinking, Oh, we have an auditor that looks at this. Yeah, you do. But they look at what’s handed to them.”

Barb Venturi (former Commissioner): “I’m very sorry to see that we have this discord in the community right now. I think the team that we brought in – when the best thing I’ve ever done was to help hire Diane – is that we have a staff that has been doing brilliant work and evidently there are some issues about that which I don’t completely understand. I hope you all will continue to support the people that work so hard in this community.”

Judy Smith: “I went to Commissioner Bonnie Crosser and asked her, Have you had any discussions about staff cuts? And she said no, there’s been no discussions….So I went to Commissioner Rowe and I asked him the same question, got the same answers. Where are the rumors coming from? Don’t know. So then I went to Manager Miller with a friend of mine. And I asked her, um, she’s, we’re all concerned about these rumors. Have you had any discussions about staff cuts? No ma’am. And she said that they have had discussion about resignations.”

Smith went on to suggest “where the rumors are coming from was in that article that appeared at 6pm” referencing the interview with Andrew Cox on why he is resigning.

Smith ran out of time, ending with “internal controls are very important, and a man said, okay, small town, that, that fraud can’t happen here. Have you all forgotten that internal, lack of internal controls created the problem at Bay Road? Have you all forgotten?”

David Smith: “You don’t want to run this as a corporation. It’s not. You all are personally responsible for the health and well being of all of these people. I mean that physically.” Smith listed the water system, garbage pickup, and green waste systems as part of that health.

“So stop micromanaging, start figuring out how to make the health of this community better… and if you can’t do that, or you don’t understand your charge, get out.”

Joe Valinoti called on Commissioner Price to remember that he serves the town and not other Commissioners.

Howard Cheetham: “It’s very disappointing that we’re losing the expertise that can create the water plant that we’ve been planning for going back 10 years and more. I’ll just have one more thing. I’ve also had many years in management. And I know, if you want to get the best out of people, you give them plenty of slack. You don’t fuss over petty things. Because then, they put in the extra mile when it’s needed. Because they know they can take some slack when it’s not needed.”

Dennis Marlin: “One side wants this, and the other side wants that. I think if everyone took a look in the mirror, not just the county commissioners, …I think when things need to be accomplished, the citizens need to step up and offer some help.

“If you want services, you need to be willing to pay for them. I think if people try to work together as opposed to throwing stones from one side of the fence to the other, the town will improve.”

Larry Summers (former Commissioner): “The Water system – the way it is set up …it’s an inefficient water system.

“When the system was funded, It was originally planned that we were going to expand our water system to cover more people. It could be made efficient that way, and maybe pay for itself.”

He also said “the ORC position should never be a full-time job in Oriental.” Suggested pulling an ORC from another town and paying them to run the plant – as they did when he arrived.

Chris Daniels: “We have to remember that the town we live in, um I could call Drew right now on my cell phone, I could call Tammy on my cell phone.” Daniels continued, saying he could contact members of the town at any time, suggesting that was special to the town.

Keith Gapen: “I’m disappointed in all the Commissioners that chose to ignore the advice of subject matter experts and created this financial liaison position. Breena is the only commissioner that showed leadership on this issue and followed the advice of our attorney and the North Carolina League of Municipalities.

*The financial liaison has caused chaos throughout our town government. staff and cause the resignation of Drew Cox, our public works director. I would rather see resignation letter from the commissioner or commissioners that caused this mess and not the letter from Drew.”

Eric Kindle (Fire Chief of Station 19): Kindle pointed out the choices that people in the town make when they choose to move to or live in Oriental or choose to be volunteers, and how they could choose to be elsewhere.

“If anyone is going to choose to give back to this town, and it is not in the best interest of the town, and or outright nefarious, well then maybe they should choose to live somewhere else, or to serve somewhere else.”

Mary Ellen Ham: “I’ve seen these changes, and I don’t like what I see. If you come here, you come here to join us, not to try to change us…So I think that our commissioners should take a wide look at what we’ve got and appreciate what we’ve got.”

Angie Propst: “I understand financial accountability and you have to stay on top of it. But, I also value employees, dedicated, 100 percent dedicated employees. And good business practices, which means there’s some things you handle internally.
And you make people feel secure. You know, some of this does not need to be out in the public.”

Bob Maxbauer (former Town Manager): “Listen to these people. They elected you. And everyone in here, I’m going to remind you of this. Take a mental picture, take a physical picture of these people here. If they don’t do what is good for this community, and keep its heartbeat going, then change these people to the people that will keep it going in your interest.”

Standing room only. Residents spilled out the door and onto the steps of Town Hall.
Related Information
Agenda for the Special Meeing
Andrew Cox Resignation Letter
Previously Contracted Licensed Operators
Cahoon Dock Bid Replacement
Personnel Excerpts
Resignation, with Regrets
An Irritated Public and a Question Left Unanswered
2023 December Town Board Meeting

Posted Monday March 4, 2024 by Allison DeWeese

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