Special meeting called for discussion on town charter, board appointments
The Board of Aldermen will be holding a special meeting Jan. 14 to discuss the town charter and the board's process of filling vacancies. It will be broadcast online by the town at 8:30 a.m. and be made available for future viewing.
Alderman Ryan Stone noted at the end of the board's Dec. 14 meeting that he hoped to call a meeting "as soon as possible" to discuss the board's appointment process and "the various charter issues."
"I think there is definitely a movement within the community that has invested a lot of time and would like to present their thoughts on that," Stone said. "I would like us to try together as quickly as we can to try and schedule something so that people can start to let us know their thoughts on that."
Public concern arose following the appointments of Larry Harris and Archie Pertiller Jr. to mayor and alderman, respectively, immediately succeeding Don Collins' decision to retire as mayor.
A Sept. 21 public forum featuring Pertiller, Doug Hay and Pam King, each of whom were elected to three available board seats, included a discussion about clarifying portions of the town charter. All participating candidates voted in favor of resolving "any known issues."
King said the board's lack of transparency led to her campaign.
“This issue is kind of what brought me into the race, about transparency and people feeling like they just weren’t being heard or engaged by our local Board of Aldermen,” King said.
She added that same-day appointments caused a disconnect between the board and residents.
“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.”
In reference to a possible special election for appointments, town attorney Ron Sneed noted during a Sept. 14 meeting that any special elections held by the town were not authorized by the town charter.
Additionally, Sneed said the board 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 would serve until the next election.
Stone says he agrees with the statute but offered an alternative solution in October.
"To me, my alternative would be to add some language to say if more than 50% of the term remains, that person stand for the remainder (of that term)," Stone told Black Mountain News. "If it's less than 50%, they can fill out the term."
Prior to the appointments of Harris and Pertiler, Jennifer Willet was appointed in early 2020 while Tim Raines was appointed in 2018. Raines will have served the longest as an appointed official, with a fourth year added following a 2018 decision to move elections to even-numbered years.
Harris, first appointed to the board in 2013 before winning a 2015 reelection bid, will serve as mayor until 2022. The now-mayor will have served a full four-year term as an appointed official and an extended five-year term as elected.
Harris said in August that if there were public concerns, the November election provided an opportunity to hold the board accountable. He added that while he would be "perfectly fine" with the process of having applicants file for vacant seats, the process would take too much time."