TURKEY — Debates among Turkey town commissioners are not unusual, and Tuesday evening’s meeting proved not to be an exception. An issue regarding the town’s attorney and his agreement with the town was the major topic of discussion.
An update of the ordinance violation of Camille Dunn was also discussed during the attorney issue. Sarah Lee from the North Carolina Department of Transportation also shared with the town a brief presentation on the Comprehensive Transportation Plan being developed for Sampson County.
Commissioner Tony Moore was absent from the meeting which was delayed due to the runoff election that was held at town hall.
Following the acceptance of the minutes from last month and reports from Travis Anderson regarding the water system and an ordinance violation report from Lyle Moore, mayor Tim Clifton made an adjustment in the agenda to allow Lee’s NCDOT presentation.
As she has in most all the municipalities in the county, except for two remaining towns, Lee shared with the commissioners the process and procedures planned for the county to conduct a study and comprise a Comprehensive Transportation Plan for Sampson County. She requested the board appoint someone interested in serving on the steering committee within the next two weeks. The committee is expected to begin work toward the end of August.
The board then turned its attention to unfinished business from the June meeting. Clifton explained to the board that the town’s attorney ,Andrew Jackson, had presented a new proposed agreement to the commissioners. A letter from Jackson, dated May 31, 2012, came prior to the last meeting in June but the board was short two members the matter was tabled until the July meeting.
Jackson’s letter informed the town that his fee would need to increase from $100 per billing hour to $150 per billing hour. He also requested that the town pay for at least two hours of billed time each month for what would be a monthly retainer of $300 per month. There would be no rollover of the retainer.
In his letter, Jackson stated, “Over the years I have learned that many short telephone calls, emails, letters and other miscellaneous matters escape billing. The current agreement only pays actual attorney time that is billed to the town and without a monthly minimum retainer.”
The mayor shared that Jackson had agreed that since the board did not have adequate time to discuss the new agreement modifications in June he would be willing to wait until August to begin the new terms.
Commissioner Don Myers said he didn’t like the new agreement and stated that he did not see the need for the town to even have an attorney on retainer. “Why can’t we just hire an attorney when we need one?” asked Myers. “I don’t like this agreement and feel the timing was bad for the letter.”
Clifton shared that he felt that a town was required to have legal representation in some form in order to be in compliance.
The issue of current and ongoing litigation regarding the Dunn ordinance violation was still in the courts and brought more discussion from the board.
Clifton told the board that Dunn had received a Prayer for Judgement and had been given 45 days to clean up her property to bring it into compliance with the town’s ordinances. “If she does not meet the judge’s order, then she will be subject to continued court action,” expressed the mayor. “We certainly will need an attorney to continue with this case. Mr. Jackson was in attendance during the recent court action to represent the town,” shared Clifton.
Commissioner Mike Smith expressed his concern about Jackson continuing the case to provide continuity as it moved through the court system. Board member Patrica Tew concurred.
After much discussion, Smith moved to accept Jackson’s proposal for the period of one year with a clause permitting either party the option to end the relationship with a 30 day notice. The board approved the motion by a vote of 2-1 with Myers casting the dissenting vote.
Smith added that with the ordinance officer sending out letters regarding more violations there might be even more legal services needed and it would be better if the town had some certain legal representation.
Myers said he he felt the board needed to look into the matter further and as soon as the Dunn case is decided seek other legal representative.
The commissioner also requested the mayor attempt to negotiate with Jackson to ask for a lower fee for services provided. Clifton expressed that he had already discussed the matter with the attorney and the proposed agreement was what he felt was needed for him to continue providing services to the town. However, Clifton expressed that he would contact Jackson to discuss the matter further and hopefully the issue could be resolved without additional action from the board.