The Local Government Commission (LGC) has written a letter to elected officials in Spring Lake noting several concerns about the Board of Aldermen's choices in the past few weeks.
Their first concern is the hiring of a new interim manager. The Board of Aldermen held two closed session meetings where the board discussed and then swore in a new interim manager, Joe Durham. The problem lies in that the vote to hire Durham should be public. In addition, Durham was sworn in without having a contract in place. The LGC states that no payments can be legally made for Durham's services without a contract.
The second concern noted is the discussion of lifting a furlough on town employees put into effect on March 14. The furlough reduced pay for all general fund employees, reduced staff hours and closed Town Hall on Fridays to walk-in traffic. The LGC is concerned they were not consulted on lifting the furlough; the LGC still has complete control of the town's financial affairs.
"The town's board does not currently have the authority to make this decision unilaterally," the letter states.
The third concern involves Town Attorney Jonathan Charleston. Charleston submitted a resignation letter on March 23 and provided a 30-day notice. However, the LGC states that the board has not officially accepted his resignation, nor has it determined the last date of Charleston's employment. The LGC asks the board to clarify the final date of Charleston's employment and that the town stipulates a plan for obtaining legal representation.
A fourth concern noted in the LGC letter is that the Board of Aldermen voted to remove the LGC's presentation of interim financial information at the March 28 board meeting. The LGC states that while the presentation and information were not available when initially requested by the town in preparing the meeting's agenda, it was available that night.
The LGC is requesting the town respond to these concerns by April 13.
"The LGC and its staff are committed to assisting the town in implementing policies and practices that will restore the town's fiscal health and establish a path to long-term viability. We ask the board to demonstrate that same commitment," the letter states.
Alderman Raul Palacios posted on his Facebook page Wednesday afternoon that the letter from the LGC was a one-sided condemnation.
In his rebuttal to the LGC concerns, Palacios stated that the board would vote on Durham's hiring when they are presented with a contract. He also clarified that the board had not accepted Charleston's resignation yet.
Regarding the March 28 board meeting and the LGC report, Palacios writes that the board did remove the financial report from the agenda because they did not receive the report in advance of the meeting after requesting it three times. He says the LGC will be presenting the financial report at the April 24 scheduled meeting.
"The town of Spring Lake is better than it was a year ago because of internal control handling, LGC oversight and a change in leadership. My only hope is that the next town that receives an investigative audit report receives the help they need versus those hoping to gain political points," Palacios wrote.
Up & Coming Weekly has submitted requests for comments to Mayor Kia Anthony, Durham and Charleston but has not received comments at the time of this publication.