The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

March 29, 2013

Princeville board nixes plans for letter


PRINCEVILLE — PRINCEVILLE — During an emergency called meeting on Thursday, the Princeville Board of Commissioners unanimously voted against allowing town attorney Charles Watts to send a letter to the state auditor concerning a legal matter. The notice for the meeting was posted Wednesday evening and went out to all the board members.

Mayor Priscilla Everette-Oates and commissioner Isabelle Purvis-Andrews did not attend the meeting.

Commissioner Ann Howell, the senior commissioner on the board, presided over the meeting which was also attended by commissioners Gwen Knight and Calvin Sherrod. According to state statutes, at least three board members most attend a meeting for a quorum to be called.

Howell said the board could not disclose the issues making up the legal matter.

"We are not happy with the way the attorney has handled this issue," Howell said after the meeting. "We will not accept it.

"We will get back with auditor. We have an extension as far as the letter is concerned, but we have to talk to someone else before we comment on it."

The letter was apparently brought before the full board during a closed session of the town's regular meeting Monday. After returning from the closed session, Everette-Oates made a motion to send a letter to the state auditor that had been written by Watts. That motion failed 3-1 with Howell, Sherrod and Knight voting against it and Purvis-Andrews voting for it.

The board has been divided since it came together in 2009 with Everette-Oates, Purvis-Andrews and Sherrod voting along the same lines on most issues, while Howell and Knight took the opposite stance. The division caused major distraction and arguments during board meetings. Howell and Knight voted against some of the actions they said were passed illegally and said they (Everette-Oates, Purvis-Andrews and Sherrod) were "destroying the town."

Some of those actions apparently contributed to the town's financial downfall, which led to the Local Government Commission taking over the town's books last July. Everette-Oates,  Purvis-Andrews and Sherrod were against the takeover.

Since then, Sherrod has questioned some of the issues brought to the board by Everette-Oates and Purvis-Andrews. Also, he has welcomed LGC to town. Recently, the LGC reported it has made significant progress in improving the town's finances even though the financial situation remains critica.

"We still have some weakenes that we are dealing with but with us coming together, things are getting better," Knight said. "It may take a little longer than we would like, but we expect the financial condition to improve."

Howell agreed, adding, "I feel like LGC has implemented some good changes. I would like to see them put in the budget to hire a part-time town manager because it is badly needed."