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Carolina Beach Mayor Says Council members Unprofessional

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - Carolina Beach Mayor Ray Rothrock is calling for apologies from his fellow Council members following decisions they made at the October 9th, meeting regarding relocating the Town's Operations Department. The Mayor was not present at the meeting, but told fellow Council members he felt they were "unprofessional" and took a shot at one Council member's weight.
Rothrock sent an email out to the entire Council early Saturday morning. He explained, "Good morning.  Lonnie, you are included in this e-mail for information only. In viewing the Council Meeting held on 10/09/2012, it was without a doubt the most un-professional participation of Steve, Sarah and Bob that I have ever experienced."
Rothrock explained, "You three showed total disrespect to our Manger, Operations Director and  Public Utilities Director. It appears you did not listen to anything they had to say. You minds were already made up and not open to ideas or making any changes to your decision of putting Operations Department Personnel in the Police Department Training Room. I respectfully request you give serious thought to and make a personal apology to Tim, Brian and Gene.  The three of you have made a decision to move all Operations Personnel into the Police Department Training Room after being told by many within our Town, it is not the best move to make.  However, you could always change your mind, remembering "a mistake corrected is no longer considered a mistake."
Rothrock wrote, "Why do you want to totally eliminate and/or remove all the meetings/training/etc. from the Police Department Training Room?  It is a much needed space within our Town for what it has been used for since construction. Why should we pay $3,500.00 a month to rent space in the Federal Point Shopping Center and not totally utilize the space we are paying for?" He explained, "Put all the Operations Department Personnel in that 8,000 sq ft. Get the most out of our monthly rent! Is it not a waste of  time/manpower/money to have our Operations Department Personnel go to Federal Point Shopping Center, park their car, get into a Town Vehicle, drive to Police Department Training Room and check-in for work?  Same question when they finish work for the day?  I believe all of us see the rental of space at Federal  Point Shopping Center as a short-term situation and not a long-term nor permanent solution to the location of Operations Department Personnel from the Buffer Zone. Morale among all Town Employees, especially those in Operations is at an all-time low, if there is any moral at all to measure.  I believe this move to the Police Department Training Room for Operations Department Personnel will result in some Town Employees seeing employment elsewhere.   This we do not need!"
Rothrock said the Town will grow in the future and, "certainly needs adequate land to accommodate Operations Department Personnel and equipment, location for dumpsters, adequate lay-down area and Town Garage with Mechanics. This is called thinking ahead and planning ahead. This should be at the top or very close to the top of our requirements and priorities.  I am capable of thinking of more than one thing at a time and in doing that, the swimming pool is at the bottom or very close to the bottom of my Priority List."
He explained, "I request we call a Special Meeting just as soon as possible and allow Town Manager to move all Operations Department Personnel to Federal Point Shopping Center. Then, let utilize the time we have to move forward toward a permanent solution to the location of Operations Department Personnel and Equipment."
Rothrock wrote, "I do not know exactly how much, if any, experience the three of you have in Management. Attempting to work with you and effectively communicate with you since we took office, leads me to believe none of you have any very little Management experience, if any.  This is even more reason you should listen to the Town Manager, Operations Director and Public Utilities Director, because they have that necessary background experience and knowledge.  We need to put our faith and trust in them. That is what we pay them for! I must say this.  Steve and Bob, if I had done everything you two express you have experience in, I would have to be 150 years old instead of approaching 75."
Rothrock wrote, "Bob, regarding your comments at the meeting pertaining the CUP at 617 Spartanburg, I believe you should not have said what you said to D.A. Lewis and all the News Media. I think it was somewhere between unethical and illegal.  Hopefully. you will not make the same mistake in the future. Also, your comments to the Media back when we were dealing with the Smoking on the Beach issue, you were quoted as saying, 'you walked on the beach strand, 1 to 2 miles a day, four  times a week."  Then you recently said you are at Mike Chappell Park two to three nights a week, coaching and/or playing ball.  My question is and an answer is not expected, is this.  If you do all the walking on the beach and playing ball, why don't you weigh 150 pounds instead about 250 pounds. My purpose is bringing this to your attention is, please work toward being  totally truthful. Finally, you said you had attended all the meeting pertaining to the Buffer Zone and this is not correct.  The records since May show that you missed a Council Meeting and a Special Meeting pertaining to CBP3 and MOTSU."
He explained, "In summation, I sincerely feel an apology would be very appropriate from the three of you to Tim, Brian and Gene and a Special Meeting to vote to allow the Town Manager to Manage the Town and put Operations Department Personnel in the Federal Point Shopping Center until we can find a long term and/or permanent solution to vacating the Buffer Zone is requested. I started typing the message about 4:15 AM, being unable to sleep because of this serious unnecessary situation is in place and continuously on my mind.  I have read it several times and rewritten part of it several times also.  It is now approaching 9:00 AM and I am going to send it to you now.  I am available to talk to any of you should you want to.  Let's correct this mistake and move forward."
Mayor ProTem Steve Shuttleworth responded saying, " Ray,  I have read and re-read your email several times. The  thrust of your email is that I do not listen to or put my faith and  trust in  our Town manager [Tim Owens]. You are correct.  Here are just a few  reasons I  don't have confidence or trust his actions or decisions."
Shuttleworth wrote, "Capital improvements and long term maintenance plan:  He has been  the  manager and in charge for 6 years and still the town has no long term written plan that has been approved, let alone implemented. Prior managers and  administrations had them."
The Town purchased $4.3 million in land some time ago including two oceanfront hotels using a council-created shell corporation called CBP3.
Shuttlework explained, "CBP3: The Town Manager didn't even bother the follow through with getting tax  exempt status with what was supposed to be a tax exempt entity. He  repeatedly stated the loan couldn't be modified, right up until the time Bob  and I met with the bank and got the loan modified at far lower payments. He  repeatedly said we had to follow the same type of [hotel] management arrangement we  had been using at a loss of $300,000 year. You agreed. His course of  action (or inaction) turned out to be exactly opposite of what we should have  been doing, legally. We changed it and have saved the town 100's of thousands  of dollars this year alone."
He explained, "He  told us the grants couldn't be moved around within the project.  That too  was inaccurate, as NCDENR (The State) has been quite willing to allow that."
Shuttleworth wrote, "Over the last several years he allowed staff and himself to rely on the prior  Town Attorney an inordinate amount of times. His lack of proper  management cost the Town, again, 100's of thousands of dollars,  unnecessarily" and, "He demonstrated poor management skills again when overseeing  the construction and lengthy delays  in the construction of [sewer] Lift station #1, with no recourse against the  contractor. This caused unnecessary  and costly disruptions to many Boardwalk businesses."
Shuttleworth wrote, "He now is repeating  his poor management skills by failing to enforce  adherence to an agreed to  time table in the Wilmington Beach project. He was directed by Council   in January or February to provide us a regular written summary of projects and issues he was working on. To date  I have not received any such summaries from him."
He explained, "He had to be directed by Council in May to get the  previously awarded and already spent $200,000 park  grant from the County. That  issue was brought to our attention, because the County put us on notice  the grant was due to expire! His response was to get an  extension. He ignored our direction. In fact he has just recently submitted a  request for the money. The  County commissioners offered to possibly fund an additional $500,000 at the  joint meeting this past summer.  We had to again give him additional  specific direction to acquire the funding. However, now, because the  $200,000 has been recently requested, the $500,000 may not be as readily  obtainable."
Shuttleworth wrote, "He was directed by Council to assist in setting up a pool advisory committee. Instead he choose to spend 30+ days investigating why he didn't think it would  work. He provided inaccurate facts to several contractors to obtain  inaccurate numbers. He went to great lengths and time to get architect bids, although he was not instructed to do so."
Shuttleworth continued, "  He was directed by Council to get an RFP for public works so that we  could assess the costs of outsourcing verses retaining fleet  maintenance.  He said he was too busy and didn't have time to do  that, instead  made a simple  inquiry. He has not provided any factual data to help us determine which is  the more cost effective route for the Town."
He explained Owens, "was never authorized or directed to spend money on a site plan, survey and title work or apply for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) on Spartanburg Ave" for an outdoor storage yard and, "My belief is he did that to agitate citizens and force the Council  to buy land."
Shuttleworth wrote, "During  this past budget cycle, he proposed only a revenue neutral budget (to which  you immediately agreed). He said there was nothing else he could reduce. After  several months of continuing to argue with Council, the budget was passed at  below revenue neutral. That budget did not cut one current employee,  reduce any salaries or  benefits, and, in fact, employees received the  [cost-of-living increase] and or bonuses requested.  He is very quick to want to increase the  property taxes for Carolina Beach property owners.  He, of course, does  not live in Carolina Beach."
Shuttleworth explained, "He has been directed by council to advance the discussion and seek options on  how to fund beach nourishment and inlet dredging. Again, his response was  focused on raising property taxes. The other options of a modified room occupancy tax or a sales tax, according to him, are just too difficult and  hard to achieve" and, "He has shown gross mismanagement when it comes to personnel decisions."
Shuttleworth wrote, "During the budget cycle, he told the Council that he had to hire a police chief immediately, and that any hiring freeze would be detrimental to the Town  and department morale. Again, you immediately agreed with him. Neither  proved to be the case, and by not agreeing with him, we again saved money for  the Town. The prior Fire chief could have been retained for $5,000 more a year. The  manager choose not to do that. Some suspect that this was because the prior Chief was too well qualified and was receiving a masters in municipal administration. This, of course, would have put the Fire Chief in a position  to replace a Town Manager who is reactive, rather than proactive."
The Town was notified last fall they violated a 1972 land lease with the U.S. Army. Only a sewer treatment plant was permitted on land off Dow Road. It was being used for many other unapproved, and some previously denied, uses. The Army gave them until December to comply.
Shuttleworth explained, "MOTSU (Sunny Point):  He failed to recognize the seriousness of the  situation last November. He again  failed to recognize the seriousness after the second inspection last spring. He failed to notify Council until the 3rd interaction and correspondence with  Sunny Point in May. It was his poor management of the facility over the past  several years that contributed to the encroachment of materials and  supplies out of the defined area. The disorganized and unkempt  condition contributed to the Town's current disastrous and expensive  situation."
He explained, "His presentations throughout the resolution process have been directed only at purchasing land and building an operations center.  At a time when our residents are facing a possible 30% increase in property insurance and a 14% increase in utility costs, his answer to the Town's problem, is to buy acres of land and propose building a new garage and a new building to  house employees. Why should we increase taxes on property owners, when  they are already facing serious new expenses, and when we are already paying  to maintain a facility that could be used?"
On the topic of an 8-lane 25 yard community pool, Shuttleworth wrote, "Rest assured, if the Town cannot afford a swimming pool  I have no interest in ramming the project through."
He explained, "Finally,  Ray, your assertion that the Police training room is used so frequently is  inaccurate. I researched the fact by reviewing the calendar. The weekly  parole meetings are the only regularly scheduled event. They can be facilitated elsewhere in Town Hall.  The County Sheriff can find alternative resources to provide training rather than Carolina Beach providing  it at our expense. The Chamber and others can use council chambers, the  Community Center or the planning department conference room. The  election precincts can share the Rec Center as is the case in many other  communities. When the need arises for an emergency  management  headquarters, we can use the Rec Center gym  The Council chambers can  easily be used to facilitate training and other larger meetings as can the  room directly behind Council chambers" and, "I have not heard a good reason as to why we should not have the Town [Operations Department] employees  at Town Hall. It is the most fiscally responsible, long term solution for the Town and it is a great place for our Town employees."
Shuttleworth wrote, "The  Federal Point shopping area was originally discounted and said to be  unacceptable by the manager. Now that same Manager sees it as 'the end all to  be all' for the interim until we are forced to buy and build. The actions taken and the direction given by Council was to use that space  and allow operations to move all the materials from the town garage and the 16 storage units to one space. This will give employees an opportunity to  create an accurate inventory of materials, something that our manager  does not currently have or a function he does not currently  require. We need to determine what the Town has, what the Town  needs and what the Town doesn't need. The Federal Point space is meant to  be a temporary solution" for the Operations Department.
Shuttleworth wrote, "Ray,  I just can't fathom as to why you are in favor of backing incompetence over  competence, raising the Town's property owners' taxes, why you work on  creating dissension between members of  Town Council and between  Council and the  Town's employees. Why you feel it is necessary to oppose  almost any measure that might save the Town money.  Some people believe  it is because you are, historically, a bully, while some indicate that you may suffer from a form of ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder), and some indicate  that you believe your opinions should never be subject to discussion or dissent. Whatever the reason may be, please, if you can't be a help, then  don't be a hindrance. We have all agreed that we should agree to  disagree and move on, that also applies to you."
Councilman Bob Lewis responded late Tuesday afternoon stating, "After council received another of Mayor Ray Rothrock’s typical, scathing, attacking emails because he didn’t get his way at another council meeting my first reaction was it is just a waste of time responding.  However the characterizations and criticisms are so unfounded and distorted I had to respond."
Lewis wrote, "My opinion is the Mayor can ramble on all he wants but I will continue to focus my attention on the real issues and challenges facing our town.  When elected, I promised you the residents of Carolina Beach that I would be fiscally responsible with their tax dollars and I would promote good business practices within town government and that is what I have done for almost 3 years.  One of those issues council is now faced with is the forced relocation of personnel, equipment, temporary buildings, parts, tools, lay down material etc. from the buffer zone property.  This council didn’t cause the problem but some of us on council have been investing a lot of our energy on solutions both short and long term that will provide our public works employees with a good work environment and at the same time handle the equipment, storage, waste removal and lay down materials presently in the buffer zone. The easy thing for us to do on council is to be like the Mayor and blindly follow the town managers long term plan by going out and spending lots of your tax dollars buying up large parcels of land and building a new operations center complete with storage, private offices and service center. This new plan will cost you the taxpayers dearly, as it is was developed out of sheer PANIC on the part of our town manager.  We currently own various parcels of land (some commercial and some residential) all over town including $4.3 Million Dollars worth purchased for the now unfunded Pier Project.  Council reviewed all the options and invested significant personal time researching, evaluating and developing solutions and has voted on a short term plan keeping options open on a long term plan instead of panicking.  Our short term solution is to lease space at Federal Point Shopping Center which of course was initially rejected by our town manager but now has become part of his plan to house all equipment, parts, and tools and lay down material."
Lewis wrote, "We have also developed a plan for providing a good work environment for our Public Works employees at town hall which has plenty of un-used or under-utilized space available.  This space can provide a nice, clean, inviting atmosphere the same as all our other employees enjoy.  This space would not cost the taxpayers anything, but our town manager and Mayor do not agree and do not want our operations and utility employees to be in the same building as our administrative and police department employees. I think the phrase they used in our last meeting is that they do not want to put our blue collar workers with the Suits. You got to question that thinking. Who are the Suits? I believe we should be treating every employee equally and with the same respect by providing all with the same good quality workspace, the same benefits and the same opportunity for advancement. One just has to view the October council meeting on public TV to see how the town manager and department directors make reference to our Public Works employees in general statements which I found insulting."
He explained, "If you read the Mayor’s email you will also note he attacks me on comments I made in an email to a resident and with the media concerning 617 Spartanburg and the town managers plan to put some of operations in one of our residential neighborhoods.  If you view that same meeting the town attorney agreed that any general comment I made to an individual resident or the media clearly does not violate any law and the law is very vague in any circumstance.  I am not ashamed to openly state I do not support infringing on our single-family neighborhoods. Changing zoning specifically in our R1 and R3 neighborhoods to allow for commercial uses is not in the best interests of our town and our residents.  In my opinion the town manager took it upon himself to spend taxpayers money to develop a site plan, survey and advertise for a conditional use permit to change town own lots on Spartanburg to allow commercial use by the town without the approval of council.  I feel the intent of our town manager was to use this land to relocate part of our operations department and materials. This impact on a residential neighborhood would have had severe negative consequences for the families who live in that area. I think it would of negatively affected property values and the increase of traffic especially truck traffic would of place our children in those neighborhoods at additional risk. Council merely asked the manager to bring back some options for us to review not go out and try to rezone town owned property in the residential neighborhoods. So the Mayor was criticizing me for talking about a subject which in the town managers words was a council initiated Conditional Use Permit, which is not true.  We never voted on the Conditional Use Permit and actually rescinded the application entirely at the October council meeting.  So I didn’t talk about anything that I voted on and I did not do anything illegal or unethical.  You have to question who is telling the truth here." 
Lewis wrote, "The Mayor goes on to attack Sarah Friede, Steve Shuttleworth around our management experience and knowledge. Just look at our record this past 10 months and you will find council members Friede, Shuttleworth and I have worked hard to develop out-of-the-box solutions to address a wide range of challenges facing our town."
Lewis pointed to renegotiating the loan on the CBP3 Hotel properties to a lower rate, using a service company to manage the hotels and using revenues from those operations to help fund the debt.
He wrote, "Based on the financial statements just received it looks like the town will be able to cover all the annual cost of the hotels and property without any money from the taxpayers."
Lewis said they greatly reduced legal expenses using a bid process for the Town Attorney position and, "If we followed the town manager’s direction we could still be spending in excess of $200,000 on legal services again this year."
Lewis said they pushed to tighten the budget and managed to lower the tax rate this year but, "If we followed the town managers budget supported by the Mayor every property owner would be paying a little more in property taxes.  We did all this within the budget and still provided all employees with a cost of living increase and a merit raise."
Lewis wrote, "If the Mayor wants to attack me a personal level as he seems to do at every turn he can have at it I am not going to respond to the personal attacks by stooping to his level. The residents of Carolina Beach know me and see me in the community everyday and know the type of activities I participate in, the numerous charities
and events I support, my vigorous support of our business community and the contributions I make for the betterment of our community.  His personal attacks don’t even deserve a response."