CAPE CARTERET — Wednesday, Mayor Dave Fowler called an emergency meeting of the town board of commissioners discuss whether Commissioner Mike King’s seat is up for re-election in November or not.
The special meeting is set for 1 p.m. Thursday.
Questions arose this week about whether Mr. King, who the board of commissioners appointed in December 2017 to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Jerry Ferguson, should be running for reelection this year instead of in 2021, when Mr. Ferguson’s four-year term would have expired.
Mayor Fowler contends that under the town charter, appointments of commissioners can be for the length of the unexpired term or can be until the next town election. He said Wednesday Town Attorney Brett DeSelms backs up that opinion.
However, Mayor Fowler said the board’s minutes from the meeting in which Mr. King was appointed by a 3-2 vote do not reflect the board specifically appointed him to fill the entirety of Mr. Ferguson’s term.
“I know that because I was appointed originally, too,” the mayor said. “That’s the way we’ve always done it: until the term expires, under the town charter.”
County Interim Director of Elections Margot Burke confirmed Wednesday the question of Mr. King’s term and need to run for office had arisen this week. She said the office is seeking an opinion from the State Board of Elections.
Mr. King said he has faith the town charter will prevail, based on the attorney’s opinion, but said if a ruling is made that his seat is open Tuesday, Nov. 5, he will file for re-election before the deadline of noon Friday at the elections office in Beaufort.
However, he said he is convinced that under the town charter, his appointment is secure for another two years.
Mayor Fowler said the town could call an emergency meeting with as little as six hours’ notice.
According to the state open meetings statutes, if a public body must meet within less than 48 hours, notice must be given to all local news media that have requested notice. Notice may be given by telephone or email or by the same method used to notify the members of the public body. An emergency meeting may be held only to address “generally unexpected circumstances that require immediate consideration by the public body” and only matters meeting this standard may be discussed at the meeting.
Mayor Fowler notified the News-Times in a phone call Wednesday afternoon.
In an email, the town stated, “The purpose of the meeting is for the Board to vote to clarify whether the appointment of Commissioner King was made pursuant to the Town’s Charter (remainder of four-year term), or G.S. 160A-63 (until next general election). Action may be taken during the emergency meeting.”
Mayor Fowler said the meeting qualifies as an emergency because the issue arose only a couple of days before the filing deadline for the municipal election.
Mr. King was one of three commissioners who in January 2018 voted to amend the town’s charter to change from a town administrator form of government to a town manager form and he was one of four who voted to elevate then-Administrator Zach Steffey to the manager’s post.
The other commissioners who voted for the charter change were Steve Martin, whose seat is not up for election this year, and Minnie Truax, who has said she will not file for re-election.
The commissioners who voted against the charter change are Charlie Evans, who has filed to run for mayor in November, and Don Miller. As of Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Fowler had not filed for re-election, nor had Mr. Miller.
The town, at the urging of residents who opposed the charter change, will hold a referendum Nov. 5 to see if voters want to stick with the town manager system or revert to the administrator system.
The language on the ballot will state: “Shall the ordinance adopted by the Town of Cape Carteret on October 8, 2018, which would change the Town’s form of government from the current Council-Manager form of government (Town Manager), to a Mayor-Council form of government, be approved? Yes or No.”
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.