Discussion of town charter, term-length ordinance on hold until new board is in place

Ty Roush
Black Mountain News
Black Mountain's Board of Aldermen will presumably be without a town charter discussion until new members are elected Nov. 3.

BLACK MOUNTAIN - Discussion about the Black Mountain town charter or an accompanying ordinance is expected to be on hold until at least January.

Following an educational discussion in its September meeting about how the town could move forward with changes to the charter or an ordinance regarding term length of appointed officials, the Board of Aldermen is set to add three new members in the Nov. 3 election.

Those three, chosen from a group of six, are expected to advance any more discussion once assuming their seats in December.

Alderman Ryan Stone said that his “hope would be that it would take place at the December meeting, or at least be put on a January agenda.”

Candidates Doug Hay, Pam King and Matthew Turner have been open about their views regarding transparency with the board.

“In November, we have an opportunity to change that with the three seats opening up,” Hay told the Black Mountain News in August. “We have a chance to reshape the board.”

An educational discussion was prompted by comments made to the board following Aug. 10 appointments of Larry Harris and Archie Pertiller Jr. to mayor and alderman, respectively.

Harris, who said that he would be open to changes to the town charter, said he believes that concern with phrasing in the document could be solved by an ordinance. Amending the charter, which requires approval by state legislature, would be “awkward.”

Town attorney Ron Sneed said that the town could refer to a state general statute that says if an appointment is made more than 90 days out from the next election date, the appointed official will serve until the next election.

In reference to a suggestion that the board could hold a special election for appointments, Sneed added that special elections were not authorized by the statute or the town charter.

An alternative

Though he says he agrees with the statute, Stone offered an alternative solution.

“To me, my alternative would be to add some language to say if more than 50% of the term remains, that person stands for the remainder (of that term),” he said. “If it’s less than 50%, they can fill out the term.”

Four candidates, which included Pertiller in addition to Hay, King and Turner, participated in a Sept. 21 forum. All four agreed to commit to clarifying the town charter in reference to how appointments were made.

King said that same-day appointments brought a disconnect between the board and the public.

“As I understand it, filling a slot the same night it becomes vacant is very unusual,” she said. “And really the only reason you could do it that way is if it was orchestrated beforehand. I’d love to see a more open process when a slot becomes open … that there’s public input.”

King added that she would not be in favor of a special election for appointments.

The discussion of holding special elections began with Jennifer Willet’s appointment earlier this year. Willet, who was appointed to Carlos Showers’ seat, was chosen from a group of candidates initially vying for the three available board seats.

Though concerns for the charter became more widespread in August, Stone agreed that the public has been disappointed with the board.

"I think people wanted and expected us to do more than just have a discussion on the various vagaries of our charter and the issues with it," Stone said. "I think what they were really looking for was someone to say does this document really reflect the values of this community today?"

The six candidates include Hay, King, Pertiller and Turner in addition to Tonia Holderman and Willet, who did not participate in the online forum. Those elected will be sworn in at the board's Dec. 14 meeting.