Aldermen attempt to put amotion in motion

By Jessi Stone Assistant editor | Sep 02, 2013

MAGGIE VALLEY — During a Thursday board meeting, Maggie Valley Aldermen Mike Matthews and Phillip Wight attempted to schedule a hearing to begin an amotion — a process typically started with the intent to remove an elected official from office.

But the vote to hold a pubic hearing failed with a 2-2-split vote with Mayor Ron DeSimone and Alderman Saralyn Price voting against it. In North Carolina, no statutory provision exists for legally removing an elected municipal official for misconduct. However, there is a common law procedure through the process of “amotion.”

According to The Campbell Law Review, amotion is “recognized as an ‘inherent power’ of the governing body of a municipal corporation to remove an elected official for reasonable and just cause due to misconduct or unfitness to hold office.”

Matthews said he had received a number of complaints and concerns from constituents that had not been addressed in public. He said he wasn’t necessarily in favor of amotion, but that it looked like it was the only way the allegations could be made public.

“Can you tell me what we’re talking about,” asked Jim Carver from the audience.

Wight tried to clarify that there were allegations made against the mayor for misconduct that needed to be discussed. He said he asked Town Manager Tim Barth last month to research having a public hearing to allow residents to air their grievances and that is when the amotion process was discovered.

“It doesn’t haven’t to be an amotion hearing,” Matthews said. “Just so we can discuss what’s going on— amotion results are a removal and that’s not our goal.”

As aldermen, Wight and Matthews said they wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t bring those concerns to the board and the public.

“There’s over 10 issues that need to be discussed that seem to go unanswered and at this time I like to make a motion to schedule a hearing for amotion,” Wight said.

He then withdrew his motion and made a motion requesting DeSimone recuse himself from voting on whether to hold a hearing since the issue pertained to his conduct.

DeSimone said he would not recuse himself from the vote, and Wight’s motion failed with a 2-2 vote.

Wight then made a motion to schedule a hearing and asked that DeSimone’s vote not be recorded.

“Don’t record his vote… his vote is irrelevant at this point,” Wight said.

“My vote is no irrelevant,” DeSimone replied. “There is no self interest in here, there’s no facts on the table — I’m not recusing myself.”

Applause erupted from the audience.

Matthews said he got an opinion from the Institute of Government stating that the mayor shouldn’t vote on the matter.

“But the statue is so wide that it can be interpreted any way,” he admitted.

DeSimone said there was no final decision on that opinion.

“And you are welcome to challenge that in the courts if you’d like but I’m not recusing myself,” he insisted. “All of these issues have been aired in the public meetings and in the newspaper…there’s no point of a hearing.”

“If nothing done was wrong then what’s the issue with having a hearing,” Matthews asked.

After the vote for the hearing failed 2-2, the board was attempting to move on to the next item on the agenda, but Matthews interrupted.

“You know what — I’m not done,” he said, adding that the concerns would have to be addressed at some point.

“It’s called an election,” someone shouted from the audience.”

“That’s fine, we’ll bring it up next month,” Matthews said.

The complaints Wight and Matthews referred to stem from a resident complaint filed with the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office earlier this year claiming DeSimone had failed to discharge his duties, forgery and false pretense. The sheriff’s office, the district attorney and the N.C. State Bureau of Investigations dismissed the complaint, stating that there was no evidence of criminal activity.

Amotion is not an easy or short process. The Town of Hope Mills is going through the process to remove a commissioner, which was reportedly the first time the process has been used in the state for nearly a century.

During the public input portion of the Maggie meeting, several people defended DeSimone.

Brenda O’Keefe, owner of Joey’s Pancakes, said she came to the meeting to thank the mayor for all he’s done for the town, especially for his Move Maggie Forward business plan.

“I wasn’t 100 percent in favor at first but after hearing more, I’m on board with it,” she said. “I’d like to see us get to that, but we’re so bogged down and distracted with other things.”

Phil Freeland said he hadn’t been to a meeting before and was “a little astounded” by the events.

“We think the mayor has been a tremendous asset to the community,” he said. “He’s pointing us in right direction… I think it would be wrong for people to try to get rid of the mayor. It would be a waste of time and money to do that.”

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