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Pinehurst Council Reviewing Ethics Complaints Against Two Members

Kevin Drum, left, and Lydia Boesch

Pinehurst Village Council members Lydia Boesch and Kevin Drum are facing potential censure by the rest of the council for separate, unrelated violations of the board’s internal ethics guidelines.

At the center of the accusations:

• Boesch’s clandestine meeting with Pinehurst’s police chief last month, where she pressed him for his opinion of Village Manager Jeff Sanborn.

• A string of emails between Drum and the president of Pinehurst Business Partners that began as a difference of opinion over the organization’s scope of activities but devolved into a personal attack.

Village Council members discussed both incidents in open session last week. State law allows an elected board to discuss personnel issues involving employees privately, but elected officials are not subject to that provision. Indeed, the law declares a board “may not consider the qualifications, competence, performance, character, fitness, appointment or removal” of a board member privately. As such, the ethics discussion in Pinehurst was public.

Village attorney Mike Newman referred to statements submitted by Pinehurst Business Partners President Katrin Franklin and member Jim Nash, as well as copies of emails between them and Drum. Police Chief Glen Webb and Pinehurst human resources director Angie Kantor submitted statements recounting their interactions with Boesch.

The Pilot has obtained those statements, and the email chain between Drum and Pinehurst Business Partners, through a public records request to the village.

Mayor John Strickland said that the Village Council’s code of ethics forbids individual council members from acting in an official capacity without authorization of the full council, and from investigating Pinehurst employees outside of established policies. Those rules also specify that council members should behave as though they’re “on duty” in any situation, regardless of whether or not they’re formally representing the village.

“During the last several days, I’ve become increasingly aware that village staff and members of the public are confused and concerned about two issues which involve members of the Village Council, and therefore the integrity of the Village Council itself,” Strickland said.

“We have some information that’s floating around and it needs to be dealt with in a public way because there’s considerable issues here.”

The Village Council did not act to reprimand either Boesch or Drum last week, but the issue is not done. Discussion of both matters is expected during the council’s Oct. 26 meeting. But that didn’t stop Councilmember Jane Hogeman from reading a motion reprimanding Boesch. It failed to receive a “second” amidst protests from Boesch and Drum. Both stated repeatedly throughout the meeting that they were unprepared to be accused of ethics violations in open session. Both believed the matter was going to be discussed in a closed session out of the public view.

“I think it’s blindsiding,” Drum said.

Complaint Against Boesch

Webb said in his statement that he met with Boesch — at her request — on Sept. 9 near the lake in the Pinewild Country Club community, where Boesch lives. Boesch opened the discussion with questions about the Village Council’s ongoing revisions to Pinehurst’s tree buffering ordinance.

Boesch has been the council’s most outspoken critic against the proposed changes. The state prevents municipalities from enacting tree preservation ordinances without a local bill, but Pinehurst’s staff is striving to work within the village’s purview to set landscape buffering standards.

“It was also mentioned by the council member that there may have been some friction between the manager and our local delegation to the General Assembly,” Webb wrote.

Per Webb’s version of events, Boesch then asked him about the working environment at Village Hall and the reasons behind the departure of the prior police chief and another administrative staff member.

After the meeting, Webb wrote that he was “uneasy being asked what were essentially performance related questions about my supervisor and that, all of it being non-criminal, was outside my purview as a police officer.”

He reported the meeting to Angie Kantor, the village’s human resources director, a few days later on Sept. 13. In her statement, Kantor recalls that she advised Webb to notify Sanborn. Kantor then called Boesch to relay that information to her on Sept. 16.

Though Boesch strenuously objected to Newman’s presentation of Webb’s and Kantor’s statements, she did not directly challenge the events they described beyond calling them “inaccurate” and “one-sided.”

“I am not saying Angie’s wrong, I am not saying Glen is wrong, I’m just saying that is one side of the story,” she said.

Boesch requested time to craft her own statement and ask Webb and Kantor to review it before the council moves to vote on any reprimand. Strickland said that there were no apparent inconsistencies between those statements and Boesch’s own, but suggested that Boesch had the floor to share her perspective then and there.

“The ripple effect since this whole issue began to be known — the ripple effect out in the public, whom I’ve heard from, and from the staff — is not good. It has created an image of the village manager which is not correct, which has not been substantiated by any of the information that you’ve supplied or that others have given to us,” Strickland said to Boesch during last week’s meeting.

“So, difficult as it may be, those are the facts we’re dealing with and I think you have in your mind all the recollection that you would want to put in a statement to us, and I would be very happy to hear all those right now.”

“I cannot believe you’re asking me to sit here and give my side of the conversation with Angie and the conversation with Glen and give a full and accurate report on that,” Boesch replied.

In her nearest attempt to explain the meeting on her own terms, she characterized it as an attempt to clarify rumors.

“Everyday, people in this village come talk to me, but I’m also learning that people say things to you that represent multiple levels of hearsay,” said Boesch. “So when I hear something, I can’t always accept it as true.”

Councilmember Judy Davis said that Boesch’s actions circumvented the village’s personnel policies and gave the appearance of an official action without knowledge of the other council members.

“You really acted completely as a maverick just going out there on your own and talking to the police chief, who normally deals with criminal activities,” said Davis. “It definitely is not something we want to commend.”

Hogeman agreed that Boesch’s decision to meet with Webb and inquire about Sanborn’s leadership could damage the Village Council’s credibility, namely with the village’s own staff.

“I can’t imagine a reasonable person thinking that if you had heard something serious about the village manager that what you ought to do is meet the police chief outside the office somewhere and have a private conversation with him about it,” she said.

Strickland also reiterated the need for the council to publicly repudiate Boesch’s approach and recommit itself to a more orthodox management style.

“We need to establish the fact that the village manager reports to the Village Council, the Village Council provides the village manager with his annual review, and the village manager in turn runs reviews throughout the organization,” he said. “All through that process, integrity and policy and code of ethics is extraordinarily important to follow.”

Complaint Against Drum

Kevin Drum’s dispute with Katrin Franklin of Pinehurst Business Partners is tied to the upcoming Village Council elections, in which he is running for a second term.

On Sept. 16, Franklin shared with the organization’s email network a newsletter from village business owner Jim Nash promoting a meet-and-greet with Patrick Pizzella, one of the three other candidates for office, at Duneberry Resort Wear, a business Nash owns in the village.

Drum, who owns the Drum and Quill tavern in the village, responded soon after. Apparently surprised to see the organization promoting a political event, he expressed the expectation that all candidates would receive the same courtesy.

Franklin responded that she would inform the group of anything Drum had planned at his downtown pub or in his own campaign.

A week later, on Sept, 22, Drum sent Nash an error-riddled email message “trying to get an answer.”

“I am so confused on what this is? I want to attend all Pinehurst Busiess Partners meetings but not interested in attended a trade organization fundraiser for a candidate.”

Franklin replied, reiterating that it’s her policy to share all newsletters from member businesses and extending another invitation for Drum to take advantage of that.

On the same day, Franklin shared an email newsletter featuring an upcoming performance by Pinehurst Business Partners treasurer Rae Anne Kinney’s band. Within minutes, Drum was calling for Franklin to step down from her office, according to emails shared as part of the complaint.

“Now your promoting bands? Are you lost? Your the president of a member marketing association?” he wrote.

In a second email a minute later: “Your are promoting bands of laying in southern pines? This is nits! You need to resign!”

Drum also declined Franklin’s invitation to share his own political events, saying he doesn’t think that the organization should be involved in promoting candidates at all. In the process, he called her “clueless” in two separate emails and said he no longer wished to renew his membership in the organization “with such a hateful person running” it.

“When Kevin Drum did not receive a response from me that was to his liking, despite my time and effort to be kind and informative, he emailed or phoned other members of the board or neighboring member businesses, often late at night, to question and harass them, seemingly in hopes of escalating the issue to reflect his mission to ‘take over’ the board,” Franklin wrote in her statement.

A few weeks later, on Oct. 3, Franklin attempted to smooth things over after being informed by another Business Partners member that Drum had a change of heart and decided to rejoin after all. In his response, Drum reiterated his hope that she would resign. He also accused her of conducting a “massive whine fest” over limited parking in the village center and of intentionally suggesting ineffective solutions.

Franklin then approached Strickland and village staff, according to her statement.

Nash, who hosted the meet-and-greet that was originally promoted, also offered his interpretation of the email exchanges in a statement to the village.

“Because I was copied on correspondence which my name or business name was used, I am privy to most of the abuse heaped in (sic) Katrin by Kevin Drum,” he said.

“I am personally appalled at the repeated bullying, threats, abuse and name calling as-well-as calling for her resignation as President of PBP – this is unconscionable behavior for any Village merchant to another merchant, let alone coming from a VOP Council member.”

After Newman summarized those statements last week, Drum said that he didn’t consider the Village Council’s code of ethics when he spoke from the perspective of a business owner. He then apologized and said that he “might have overstepped.”

“I did not think me being a bulldog businessman broke the village code of ethics, but after reading it, I agree,” he said. “I think I need to be more professional and the way I’m successful in business is to charge through the rice paddies and get the work done.”

Davis took issue with what she described as the angry, disrespectful tone of Drum’s emails, but said that she appreciated his reaction to criticism.

“I appreciate you taking responsibility … although in today’s modern society it’s really hard to think that you could compartmentalize yourself like that,” she said.

“We have a number of people in the NFL that tried to compartmentalize themselves that are out of jobs and looking pretty shaky in their jobs, so I think it’s all around us and it’s not unreasonable for us to expect that you would understand that you’re always on duty and always being perceived that way.”

Graham Will Not Run for Re-election

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County Commissioner Catherine Graham will not seek re-election in 2022. She plans to serve out her current term representing District I before stepping down next November.

A former clerk of court and Carthage town commissioner, Graham was first elected to the board in 2014 and ran unopposed in 2018. She is only the fourth woman in Moore County to serve on the county board and made history, in 2016, as the first woman elected county chairman.

She has also chaired the Courthouse Facilities Advisory Committee, and serves on the Social Services Board, Facilities Task Force, Budget Task Force, Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, and Sandhills Center Board of Directors. She also previously served on the Board of Trustees for Sandhills Community College and served on the Moore County Schools Facilities Task Force.

“At the end of my term, I will have served Moore County citizens for 26 years,” she said. “The bottom line is, I’m most thankful for the citizens of Moore County and for our staff here in Moore County. Without question, they excel at their duties to all of Moore County.”

During her years of service, Graham said there were a “few things” she tried to stick by including seeking wisdom and offering thanks to God for allowing her to serve, to not seek personal honor, and remember that she was a servant of God and of the people. She also spoke of always trying to apply good and sufficient knowledge to any decision she had to make.

“And my most frequent advice, “the least said the best,” she said, with a chuckle.

Vice Chair Louis Gregory said he would miss her counsel and advice, and thanked Graham for always serving with dignity.

“Catherine has always exhibited the very best in what needs to be said with professionalism, integrity and character. Those things we all aspire to, including myself,” Gregory said. “It has been a pleasure and privilege to serve with someone with your experience. This board and staff looked to you for that wisdom and experience you brought, but also the integrity you have. It is part of you. Integrity is such a quality.”

The District III and District V seats currently held by Commissioners Otis Ritter and Jerry Daeke, respectively, are also up for election in 2022. Neither Ritter or Daeke have officially announced whether they intend to run.

Court Clerk Will Not Seek Reelection

Susan Hicks

Susan Hicks will not seek reelection to a fourth-term as Moore County Clerk of Court, she announced Tuesday. Her pending retirement after 12 years in office will be effective Dec. 5, 2022.

“I’ve been truly blessed. I am one of the lucky ones who never had to work a day in my life because I loved my job. This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. But the time always comes, and I feel that,” Hicks said.

A Republican from Cameron, Hicks began her 38-year career in Randolph County before joining the Moore County Clerk of Court office in 2006. Hicks holds associate degrees in both Office Systems Technology and Business Administration. In 2009, she was appointed clerk, succeeding Catherine Graham who retired mid-term after serving in the role for 15 years. Graham went on to later run for the Board of Commissioners, on which she is still a member.

Hicks won her first election to a four-year term as Clerk of Superior Court of Moore County in 2010, then again in 2014 when she defeated challenger Doyle Markham. More recently she ran unopposed for a third-term in 2018.

“I plan to finish out this term, I have no desire to leave any sooner,” Hicks said. “My main goal is, and will be until the day I walk out of the office, to give people their day in court, to make sure they feel like they were heard. I have to apply the law, that is my job, and this has worked very well for me.”

Looking ahead to the open filing period in December, Hicks said she did not want to wait until the last minute to announce her decision to retire.

The Moore County Clerk’s Office has maintained the long-standing reputation as one of the top clerk’s offices in the state. Having progressed from typewriter and carbon paper days to the computer and printer age, including now e-filing, and going “paperless,” Hicks said it was her desire to leave in place “a system and a core team of people who can easily adapt to the rigors of a growing county, challenging times, and continued progress we are sure to face in the future.”

In her resignation notice, Hicks said her decision to not seek reelection comes with “some sadness as I will no doubt miss all the wonderful people and relations with which I have been deeply blessed. I also must confess that I have a real sense of joy in that I know that the time has come, as it always does, to pass the torch to the next generation, and I am looking forward to starting my next chapter.”

Hicks is one of several local, high profile and long-serving county officials to announce their retirement this year.

Robert Wittmann, the longest-serving health director in Moore County history, announced his retirement during Monday’s meeting of the Moore County Board of Health. His last day will be Dec. 31.

In addition, Elections Director Glenda Clendenin retired Sept. 24, after 35 years of exemplary service to the community.

Pat Corso, Moore County’s lead economic development officer and executive director of Partners in Progress (PIP) since 2011, retired at the end of May. Corso had previously spent 17 years as president and CEO of Pinehurst Resort, and was a founding member of PIP.

Early Voting Begins

Early Voting
File photo: Cardboard stands separating voting vestibules at the Moore County Agriculture Center in Carthage. Pilot file photo

One stop voting for the municipal election is set to begin Thursday and runs through Oct. 30, for voters in Aberdeen, Carthage, Pinebluff, Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Taylortown, Vass and Whispering Pines. Town charters governing Cameron, Foxfire Village and Robbins do not allow absentee voting.

Ballots may be cast at the Moore County Agriculture Center, 707 Pinehurst Ave. in Carthage. Hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m, and Saturdays, Oct. 23 and Oct. 30, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

On Election Day, Nov. 2, registered voters must go to their assigned polling place. Call the Board of Elections office at (910) 947-3868 if you need assistance.

In North Carolina, absentee voting is broadly divided into three categories: absentee-by-mail voting, military and overseas citizens voting, and absentee one-stop voting. These processes are all considered absentee, because the voting takes place away from the traditional Election Day precincts.

During the early voting period, registered voters may change their name or address at a one stop location Also, unregistered citizens may register and vote at a one stop location.

There are 37 municipal seats up for election in November. Sample ballots are available online at www.moorecountync.gov/board-of-elections:

* Aberdeen: Mayor Robbie Farrell is running for re-election for a four-year term in the mayoral seat. He is unopposed. Also on the ballot, Daniel Behnke, Timothy Helms, Wilma Laney and Tim Marcham are seeking one of two open commissioner seats. The seats have four-year terms.

* Cameron: Jim Leiby and Tasherra Nichols have filed for the mayoral seat (four-year term,) and John Frutchey and Kane Parsons have filed for one of the two commissioner (four-year term) seats. David Seiberling is seeking one of two unexpired (two-year term) commissioner seats.

* Carthage: Patty Kempton, Kevin Lewis, John McDonald, Anton Sadovnikov, Brent Tanner and former Commissioner George Wilson Jr. have filed for one of three open commissioner seats (four-year term.)

* Foxfire: Paul Canup, Jason Daily, George Hedrick, Richard Kight, Ernestine Maccari, Janet Nauman, Donald Nelson, Mike Ratkowksi, Kevin Robbins and Gary Samuels have filed for one of three Council member seats (four-year term;) and Nancy Certain and Janice Gregorich have filed for the unexpired Council member seat (two-year term.)

* Pinebluff: Ronald L. McDonald and Patrick Neligan have filed for the mayoral seat (four-year term.) Robbie Conley, Robert Esselman, Michael Ough and Jerry Williams have filed for the two commissioner seats (four-year term.)

* Pinehurst: Kevin Drum, Jeff Morgan, Patrick Pizzella and Emily Stack have filed for one of two council seats (four-year term.)

* Robbins: Cameron Dockery and Neil Johnson have filed for the unexpired mayoral seat (two-year term.) Jody Lee Britt, former mayor Lonnie English, Terri Holt and Benjamin Reynolds Jr. have filed for one of three commissioner seats (four-year term.)

* Southern Pines: Taylor Clement, Brandon Goodman, Ann Petersen and Mike Saulnier have filed for one of two council seats (four-year term.)

* Taylortown: Garry Brown, Mary Cagle, Bridget Cotton, Sidney Gaddy, David Levine, Nadine Moody, Mitchell Ratliff, Marvin Taylor and Mayor James Lattimore Thompson have filed for one of five council seats (two-year term.)

* Vass: George Blackwell Jr., Eddie Callahan and Angela Vacek have filed for the mayoral seat (two-year term.) Rona Kellis, Kris Kosem, Todd McLeod, Emily Oldham, Christine Phipps and T.J. Watson have filed for one of two commissioner seats (four-year term.)

* Whispering Pines: Richard Casey, Andy Conway, Pamela Harris, Dean Kalles and Linda Vandercook have filed for one of three council seats (four-year term.)

County Redraws Voting Districts

 

Moore County’s updated population count, according to the 2020 U.S. Census, stands at 99,727. The county is divided into five residency districts for elections to the county board, which is composed of five commissioners. Each commissioner must live in the election district they represent but all qualified voters in the county may vote for all five county commissioner members.

County leaders had anticipated a Nov. 17 deadline to approve any changes to the residency district boundaries as a result of the pandemic slowing down the release of census data.

The N.C. General Assembly enacted legislation earlier this year to provide additional time for redistricting resolutions; however, last week County Attorney Misty Leland discovered that information passed down from the State Board of Elections to local officials did not take into account residency districts. Accordingly, the state legislation for the extension did not apply.

Thus, Moore County was required to approve any changes to redistricting lines no less than 150 days prior to the next election. That pushed the deadline to Oct. 9. A public hearing is not required to make these changes but there was general consensus that the accelerated timeline was a less-than-ideal situation.

2015 County Election Map

The previous 2015 county election residency district map, with updated 2020 Census counts applied.

“Instead of an extra month, we had a few days to get this right. Thank goodness we have been working on this the last few weeks,” County Chairman Frank Quis said, commending county staff.

As presented and approved, the new boundaries bring Carthage, Cameron, Whispering Pines and Vass within a single district, District I. It was noted these communities share several commonalities, including that public school children are all routed to Union Pines High School. Also, Carthage and Whispering Pines share the same zip code and a single post office.

Taylortown and the majority of the Eastwood precinct were shifted into District II, which also encompasses Pinehurst and the gated communities of Seven Lakes. District II is the largest district by population.

District III was expanded from 239 square miles to 341 square miles, and encompasses nearly all of the northern end of Moore County. But despite the broader area, District III continues to be the least populated district and is primarily farmland and smaller communities.

The redrawn map reflects the growing population of the southern end of Moore County. The redrawn lines bring all of Southern Pines into District IV.

District V represents the southernmost end of Moore County and encompasses Aberdeen, Pinebluff and reunites Foxfire into a single residency district.

Prior to voting on the redrawn maps, county leaders heard from resident John Misiaszek, who suggested that commissioners move away from the “at-large” system in which voters cast ballots for all five seats. Instead, he proposed they adopt a new format in which voters from each district would only vote for candidates in their respective district.

North Carolina law authorizes county commissioners to amend the voting procedure accordingly, if so desired.

“I suggest this change would result in a much more representative form of county government — one where the elected commissioner would be much more representative of, accessible to and answerable to those voters each commissioner will actually represent in county government,” Misiaszek said.

None of the county commissioners directly addressed the suggestion during their discussion; however, following the meeting, Quis said the legislation was created to ensure that every community has representation.

“The residency district laws that we are organized under have been in place for a long time. They seem to work well, giving citizens throughout the county an opportunity to cast a vote for all of Moore County,” Quis said.

“I think (the redrawn maps) are a good division, but it is not perfect. Given the short time frame, we did not have time to make major changes to procedure.”

He noted that Moore County IT Director Chris Butts, GIS Director Rachel Patterson and County Attorney Leland had worked on several variations of maps prior to bringing the proposed changes before county leaders for their approval.

“I know a lot of work has gone by between our staff and attorney to make sure this is compliance with state law,” agreed County Vice Chair Louis Gregory. “I know this is a difficult decision but I think we’ve made a good decision.”