In the wake of one of the most acrimonious elections in Swansboro’s recent history, a former town commissioner has shared emails that he believes dispel some of the criticism leveled at Mayor John Davis – reelected to a second term on Nov. 2 – but at the very least pull back the curtain on infighting among the town commission following the 2017 election and the bickering that has gone on since.

Brent Hatlestad was elected to a two-year term as a town commissioner in the 2017 election. He contacted the Tideland News after the newspaper published an article detailing differences of opinion between Davis and Frank Tursi, mayor pro tempore.

After reading that article, published in the Nov. 10 Tideland News, Hatlestad said in the email, “Whew, what a paper this week. I write not that I have any standing with the BOC or mayor, I write only because I was a commissioner during the resignations of some city workers during Mayor Davis’s first term … outlined in the Tideland.”

The implication that Davis, who admitted he takes a very hands-on approach to the office of mayor, hastened the resignations of three department heads is not totally correct, according to Hatlestad.

“I am not on an ego trip, I just feel there is a second story,” Hatlestad stated in the email to the newspaper.

In addition to his perception of the employee exodus, Hatlestadt said he took issue with a comment from Tursi that implied Hatlestadt was among commissioners ousted from office by voters who were unhappy with the board’s austere direction by the time the 2019 election took place. Hatlestad actually declined to seek reelection, primarily because, he said, he was uncomfortable with the dynamics of the board of commissioners.

Installed as a commissioner in December 2017, Hatlestad said that he received – by mistake – an email that blasted him and Angela Clinton, also elected commissioner in 2017. (See related article.)

“I saw first-hand that by Feb. 20, 2018, … in an email, that I was considered a BS artist (and) John and Angela Clinton were labeled a virus,” he said.

The email exchange was between then-Commissioner Roy Herrick and Scott Chase, town manager at the time. In the emails provided by Hatlestadt – in what appears to be their entirety – Tursi was referenced and copied but no replies, if there were any, were included.

It was an email from Herrick, who provided – in Hatlestadt’s words – the “BS artist” and “virus” assessment.

“It was sent to the city manager, and in his reply there was NO pushback on those labels,” Hatlestadt said. Instead, Chase offered “suggestions on how three commissioners could marginalize a learning, newly elected mayor.

“In my opinion the seed planted early in 2018 has now matured to what it is today.”

In a Facebook post days before the Nov. 2, 2021, election, Tursi said that Davis had been a “terrible” mayor. Tursi provided examples of four key employees – Managers Chase and Chris Seaberg, Planning Director Andrea Correll and Parks and Recreation Director Brittany Shipp – that he said Davis helped drive out of jobs with Swansboro. It was one of a few criticisms Tursi leveled at Davis.

“I am only interested in fairness since I served Swansboro at that period of time and I see things through a somewhat different prism,” Hatlestadt said about that criticism.

In his email, in which he does not refer to an employee by name, Hatlestadt offers background on the situations involving Chase, Correll and Shipp, all of whom left while he was a commissioner.

“One … board member blames the mayor for their resignations,” Hatlestadt said, an apparent reference to Tursi. “This is simply not the case. One department head who left could not explain where the budget was going and where operating funds were spent and what the ROI (return on investment) was on citizens’ tax expenditures. Another left because of an opportunity to develop a historical North Carolina town and medically help a family member. Finally one left after threatening to leave just weeks after Mayor Davis’s first election. Each month there was that threat even after pay raises, benefit increases, praises and support from all of us on work produced, (and), finally, the awarding of Swansboro’s highest citizen award, the Bland Award.”

Hatlestadt said that in the email exchanges involving two board members and the manager, it was said of Davis, “Let’s let him hang himself.”

“This email was sent three months into the mayor’s first election. In less than 90 days members of the BOC wanted the mayor to fail, with our city manager not pushing back from this type of disruptive and inappropriate correspondence … sounds like Raleigh and Washington,” Hatlestadt said.

Hatlestadt references a comment from Herrick in the emails that seems to suggest recruiting Commissioner Pat Turner to form a voting block: Herrick, Turner and Tursi.

In the Feb. 20, 2018, email to Chase, Herrick appears to be offering Chase support in dealing with the apparent micromanagement from Davis and Clinton. “Frank thinks we should ignore him until he screws up,” Herrick wrote in the email. “However that does not eliminate your problem or the virus he and Angela pose. Your issues are real and we must resolve. Perhaps we should meet before the end of the week. Tomorrow night if Frank and Pat are there perhaps we should try to schedule a sit down before our next meeting. I realize you can’t continue in this environment and will try to resolve if we can get three votes in our favor. Brent is good sometimes but I don’t always trust his BS to carry us in the right direction.”

In his assumption that the two returning commissioners – Herrick and Tursi – had formed a coalition of sorts with Chase, Hatlestadt said others were shut out.

“If you were NOT of the inner circle, inside the third estate, then you were not going to even be respected much less allowed in,” he writes. “What they did to Ms. Clinton was unbelievable. The key for them each election is to get three commissioners as a ‘block.’ If successful, then two would just be allowed to take a chair and be tolerated.”

In the emails provided by Hatlestadt is one from Clinton to Chase offering suggestions on policy changes. Specifically, the changes would, in Clinton’s opinion, ensure the town avoid situations like the one that resulted from the mishandling of the Glover-Padrick lawsuit. (See related article.)

In her email of Feb. 13, 2018, Clinton suggests the manager prioritize correspondence and include alerts to commissioners. The town should prohibit attorneys with a conflict of interest. There should be a “chain of events” for critical documents. And, fourth, she suggested “widening the circle” of information sharing to include the mayor and mayor pro tem. “Although the Glover-Padrick case was a perfect storm, one thing that could have prevented it would have been for Mayor (Scott) Chadwick to have been included in the ‘chain of events’ at time of check writing (since he had signed a notarized verification of who the correct payee was supposed to be),” Clinton stated in the email.

In his response, Chase agreed to widen the circle of those who are informed. He also offered specific responses to other suggestions.

“Appreciate the email,” he said in the email to Clinton. “Although the former mayor was notified about this in previous correspondence … this was a surprise to him. Would not have prevented this issue. Also, in the form of government we have the manager and finance director sign the checks. The mayor and board were notified regarding the payout.”

In an email to Herrick and Tursi that followed this exchange, Chase was clearly frustrated, not only by the suggestions but also by the level of intrusion from Davis. (See related item.)

In his emails to the newspaper, Hatlestadt expresses hope that the newest version of the board of commissioners, the one that follows the Nov. 2 election, will choose to be less confrontational.

In a reference to the selection of commissioners to positions of leadership, Hatlestadt wrote, “If their goal is to serve Swansboro and its citizens, I hope they choose … members that will work with the mayor and take a ‘moderate’ tone versus an ‘adversarial’ one. What will fighting internally have … to do with all of our success and quality of life these next four years? I hope the mayor will also reach out and be willing to adjust certain style points.”

Email Jimmy Williams at jimmy@tidelandnews.com.

For more on this story purchase a copy of the Jan. 19, 2022, Tideland News.

(10) comments

David Collins

Perhaps the not so Friendly City by The Sea after all .

Folks run for office for all kinds of reasons . Some self serving , related to their business ventures , some to make it My Town , kingdom building and some just to have something to do with their time . Often opinions and views clash to the detriment of the town as a whole . Having one’s feelings bruised comes with the games people play . Nothing new here and as long as nothing illegal has transpired , situation normal . Perhaps Judge Judy could sort this out .

Now that the BORO has been gifted with no strings 6 million for it’s supposedly desired emergency disaster response complex , any concerned eyes should focus on that issue . Everything should be out in the open , “transparent” . No back room conversations or glad handing . There are about 6 million ways this could go south if folks can not focus on their jobs .

noitall

Governments don't hand out money without strings attached. We will find them and take legal action.

sboro concerned

Why would you even print this?? Sounds like BH playing both sides of fence and someone has hurt his feelings. He only wants to be on the winning team. What a waste of space in the paper.

David Collins

Why print this ? Strife and conflicts sell . You know , drama , intriguing twists and turns while giving the appearance of a governing body intent on doing it’s job in harmony and all that rubbish . Tune in for the next eye riveting chapter of how the Boro turns and squirms . At a news stand near you .

noitall

Six million to spend on a command center (or anything)?? Certainly there will be a feeding frenzy Could make to Netfix.

drewski

a substantial unified command center in a coastal community in hurricane country, that seems like a good idea. the fact that it is being paid for with a grant, rather then taxes also seems like a good deal for swansboro.

(Edited by staff.)

noitall

WOW. The operative word is "FREE". And command what or who, or better yet why??? Pork barrel money grab with no accountability for a worthless idea. Other peoples money is the operative idea. Look around. How many of these grant programs have produced anything more than a feeding frenzy

David Collins

No mention of where all this grant money comes from . The grant money tree in the sky , perhaps ?

Boroexpat

Actually I believe the funding for the Command Center was from the State Budget approved in November. No grant money involved. It was paid for through normal revenue sources like many other government buildings. It's still tax money but the representatives we elected deemed it a worthwhile expenditure.

David Collins

Hasn’t been built yet , unless it happened last night . No big picture , no little detailed picture , no land selection/purchase and best of all no strings . Guess that also means no guidelines or time table . Could be a perfect storm , so to speak . BORO style !

Welcome to the discussion.

As a privately owned web site, we reserve the right to edit or remove comments that contain spam, advertising, vulgarity, threats of violence, racism, anti-Semitism, or personal/abusive/condescending attacks on other users or goading them. The same applies to trolling, the use of multiple aliases, or just generally being a jerk. Enforcement of this policy is at the sole discretion of the site administrators and repeat offenders may be blocked or permanently banned without warning.