The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

Local News

August 29, 2013

Councilman Shepheard explains problems with Thornton

Council members Knight, Owens, Ruffins disagree with his assessment

TARBORO — Eight days after Tarboro Town Councilman Garland Shepheard cast the lone vote against retaining town manager Alan Thornton, he is standing by his decision. And so are the seven council who voted in favor of Thornton.

During a recessed meeting Aug. 20, the council voted 7-1 to renew Thornton's contract for one year and increased his severance package from three months to four. Shepheard voted against both.

"I can't support someone who can't give me straight answers," Shepheard said Monday during an interview. "I felt like when I got on the town council, that the people on the council were representing the taxpayer of the Town of Tarboro and they could look at the facts, and deal with the facts, if the facts were true. I don't know if it's just me who sees it, or what. I don't feel like that we should be voting for someone to manage our town who is not in a position to answer our questions."

Shepheard also listed the deplorable conditions of three town facilities,  Thornton's hiring practices and giving the council what he said was false information as reasons for voting not to renew the contract.

Thornton said Shepheard's allegations is a "continuation of charging at windmills" and he didn't consider it "worthy of a response." However, he gave brief comments about the allegations.

"... Councilman Shepheard receives answers to his questions," Thornton said. "The fact that you do not agree with the answers does not mean that you do not receive an answer."

Councilwoman Carol Ruffin wholeheartedly disagreed with Shepheard's assessment of Thornton.

"The council voted 7-1," Ruffin said. "Nobody that I've spoken with is dissatisfied with the way that Mr. Thornton is doing his job. Mr. Shepherd is not trying to help Tarboro grow. His only mission is to see what he can do to get rid of the town manager."

Councilwoman Candis Owens said, "He's making a one-person opinion. There are eight of us. He is totally out of control."

Mayor Pro Tem Taro Knight said he is bothered by Shepherd's antics and allegations. He said Thornton's contract was discussed at length

Shepheard is a first-term councilman who ran unopposed in the May 2012 election. Immediately after he was sworn-in, he began asking a slew of questions. During the town's monthly meetings, Thornton facial expression appears to show that he is irritated by Shepheard's actions. Shepheard's fellow council members have also shown displeasure with his antics.

Shepheard insists his questions are not a personal attack against Thornton or anyone else. He said he is doing what is best for the town.

"It may appears that I'm causing trouble," Shepheard said. "The trouble comes because of the lack of fact of truth. I can back up everything that I'm saying with facts and truth. If that bothers people, I'm sorry. I'm going to continue to bother them because I'm not going to give up on facts and truth."

Thornton, who was one of 39 candidates who applied for the position, was hired unanimously in May 2011 to replace Sam Noble. Shepheard was not on the board when Thornton was hired.

The town manager began his tenure in Tarboro August 2011 after leaving Southport the previous February. Including two years in Tarboro he has 23 years' of experience as a town manager. He has also served in Hudson, Trinity and Erwin. Despite Shepheard's attack Thornton said he will continue to reach his goal of working with the council to improve the community.

"It remains my responsibility and objective to work with the entire council for the betterment of the town of Tarboro and all of its citizens," he said. "I find it unfortunate that a member of council would not have that same objective."


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