The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

July 1, 2013

Special called meeting canceled due to noncompliance of state law

By CALVIN ADKINS
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER

PRINCEVILLE — PRINCEVILLE — Mayor Priscilla Everette-Oates put a halt to the town's Saturday special called meeting citing the fact notice given by the town was unlawful and not in compliance with the General Statutes.

According to an article in the General Statutes, elected officials must give the public at least a 48-hours notice for special called meetings. The purpose of the meeting must be also be stated on the notice.

The notice failed to adhere to either of those requirements.

Everette-Oates did not call the meeting to order, but instead said in her opening statement that, "This meeting is illegal."

Everette-Oates and commissioner Isabelle Purvis-Andrews said they received their notices after 10 p.m. Thursday. Commissioners Ann Howell, Gwen Knight and Calvin Sherrod said they received theirs around noon Thursday. Howell said notices were emailed to all the commissioners around noon Thursday.

Town attorney Benn A. Brewington III, who was sitting in on his first meeting, gave his first official advice to the board. Brewington declared the meeting illegal and told the board if they voted on any issues, they could be challenged and thrown out.

The Local Government Commission requested the town to call the meeting to vote on whether or not the town gave Everette-Oates, Andrews and former town clerk, Diana Draughn permission to use credit cards issued by PNC Bank and whether questionable travel expense by Everette-Oates, Purvis-Andrews and former interim town manager, Maggie Boyd were authorized.

The LGC, which took over the town's finances a year ago, needs the information to complete the town's 2013-2014 budget. The deadline for all municipalities to complete their budget was June 30. In an effort to complete Princeville's budget, LGC requested the special meeting to be held before the deadline.

Everette-Oates said that she was going on vacation beginning Sunday and could not meet this week. After about a 15-minute discussion the board agreed on 7 p.m. July 8 for the special called meeting. Brewington then personally served the notice to each of the board members.

Because the information concerning the credit cards and travel expense will not be available before the June 30 deadline, it is likely that LGC will adopt an interim budget for the town.

Because LGC has taken over the town's finances, it is responsible for completing and adopting the town's budget.

The credit card and travel expense issues have created hot gossip among citizens since the Local Government Commission revealed Everette-Oates and former fiance officer made questionable credit card purchases totaling more than $10,000 without providing receipts or documenting the business purpose at the time of the expenditure.

LGC also charged that Everette-Oates, Purvis-Andrews and Boyd spent a total of more than $4,112 for travel reimbursements without adequate supporting documentation. The SBI is investigating the incidents.

Brewington was hired by contract for $1,000 a month during the board's June 23 monthly meeting. He is expected to attend all board meetings. Brewington made it clear that he was working on the behalf of Princeville.   

"We're starting anew. We're going to do things right. There are no sides," Brewington said. "The only side is the town's side. I'm not the mayor's attorney. I'm not the mayor pro-tem's attorney, I'm not Commissioner Knight's  attorney, I'm not commissioner Sherrod's attorney, I'm not commissioner Howell's attorney. As of this point, I'm the Town of Princeville's attorney. ... I'm sure that all of you are in agreement that you all want to do what right for the town and for your constituents. They voted for you, they put you here to do what right for the town. So let's do what's right for the town."