- Published on Tuesday, 30 July 2013 16:34
- Written by Super User
State House Representative Susi Hamilton (D-18 New Hanover and Brunswick) accepted the position of Town Manager Tuesday July 23. On Wednesday July 24th, she declined the job rather than resign her office.
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - The Town of Carolina Beach announced Tuesday July 23, the Town Council had selected NC House Representative Susi Hamilton as their new Town Manager starting August 5th.
In a release issued by the Town on Tuesday it stated, "Rep. Susi Hamilton (D-18 New Hanover, Brunswick) announced today that she has accepted a position as Town Manager for the Town of Carolina Beach with a start date of Aug. 5, 2013. She is currently serving her second term in the N.C. General Assembly."
“It will be an honor to follow Interim Managers Bruce Shell and Ed Parvin, and I look forward to working hard to serve the residents of Carolina Beach,” Hamilton said. “Having grown up spending my free time on the beach or in the water, I do have salt in my veins and treasure our coastline. This is an exciting time for Carolina Beach, and the Boardwalk extension and new hotel are just the foundation of my vision for what we can achieve. Carolina Beach is uniquely poised for success because of its natural beauty, heritage, vibrant business climate, reputation and management team. I am very much looking forward to making an even stronger mark on the map for us.”
According to the release, "Mayor Bob Lewis said the decision to hire Hamilton was based on several key factors. “Susi was the unanimous choice of Council to take over where Interim Town Manager Bruce Shell left off,” he said. “Susi brings with her a wealth of government and private management experience along with her relationships she has developed at the state level. During these times when federal funding for projects such as beach nourishment and inlet dredging are in jeopardy, having a Town Manager with her experience in the legislature will be invaluable to developing additional partnerships with our state government.”
On Wednesday Mayor Bob Lewis explained it was the Town's understanding that Hamilton would resign her seat in the NC House to take the manager position.
In a statement issued by Hamilton on Tuesday night July 23, she stated, "I am absolutely thrilled to have accepted the position of Town Manager of Carolina Beach, and look forward to working diligently and effectively for its citizens. It is important to note that the North Carolina General Assembly does not require a member to resign in order to accept a full time position, and there are no immediate plans for any change in my elected status. I am extremely excited to have this opportunity, and look forward to continuing to serve our community.”
What does the North Carolina State Law Say?
Under NC General Statute § 128‑1.1. "Dual‑office holding allowed" under section (b) states, "Any person who holds an elective office in State or local government is hereby authorized by the General Assembly, pursuant to Article VI, Sec. 9 of the North Carolina Constitution to hold concurrently one other appointive office, place of trust or profit, in either State or local government."
That appeared to give permission for Hamilton to remain in elected office while taking the full time position as Town Manager for Carolina Beach.
However, under General Statute § 160A‑147. "Appointment of city manager; dual office holding", it states that, "The office of city manager is hereby declared to be an office that may be held concurrently with other appointive (but not elective) offices pursuant to Article VI, Sec. 9, of the Constitution."
In another section of that law it states, "Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a), a city manager may hold elective office if the following criteria are met: (1) The population of the city by which the city manager is employed does not exceed 3,000. (2) The city manager is an elected official of a city other than the city by which the city manager is employed."
According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau count, the population of Carolina Beach is 5,809 (July 2011).
Tuesday night, July 23, shortly after the announcement of Hamilton's hiring, Mayor Lewis wrote on his Facebook page, "I interviewed a lot of candidates and Suzi was the only one who stood out, had a pro-active approach and had the management experience to help deliver significant value to our town. In a time when the Feds are trying to walk away from there responsibility for Inlet Dredging and Beach Nourishment Suzi can leverage her strong relationships at the state and county level to help Carolina Beach receive consistent funding."
On Wednesday morning Lewis responded to a question on Facebook stating, "The town manager is not an elected official and we are governed by federal law in a job interview you do not talk about a persons political affiliation or voting record. We individually looked at her body of work history and had the town manager and HR manager do a background check like any other employee. Town council members met individually with the candidate and gave the interim town manager their selection for the position. There was no closed session meeting to vote on the hiring of a new town manager. We had Bruce Shell and our town attorney negotiate an agreement with the candidate for the office of town manager and provide a contract. The candidate was waiting till the end of the long session to agree to a contract with the town and we had planned a special meeting to be held as soon as she gave us notice. The media pushed to get Suzi Hamilton to make some sort of statement. We were scheduling a special meeting for this Friday to vote on the contract in an open meeting. This is the same process that took place with the hiring of former Town Manager, Tim Owens. You cannot vet a candidate in an open meeting this is in reality is a job application. The applicant will be working full time for the town of Carolina Beach. She will have a transaction period from her current responsibilities but the intent is not for her to hold both positions long term. Suzi Hamilton brings with her a wealth of experience in management and in government. She has a planning background, managed a private organization, has managed a consulting business and has direct experience at the state level with relationships which will be invaluable for our community."
Mayor Lewis said Wednesday morning the Town had asked Hamilton to resign her seat to take the manager job or pass on the job.
Mayor Pro-tem Steve Shuttleworth said he was surprised by the announcement Tuesday late-afternoon because it was his understanding Hamilton would be in Carolina Beach later that week and a joint announcement would be made at Town Hall on Friday.
In order to make it official, the Council would have to vote in an open meeting to agree upon an employment contract. The salary would be in the $90,000 range along with a vehicle allowance, health and dental coverage and other benefits.
According to Mayor Pro-tem Steve Shuttleworth, as of 3PM Wednesday July 24, "The Town of Carolina Beach and representative Hamilton were unable to reach final terms acceptable to both parties regarding the position of Town Manager. We wish Mrs. Hamilton the best of luck."
Shuttleworth explained, "Mrs. Hamilton has elected to continue serving in the NC House of Representatives which was a term of employment that was unmanageable for our community. Yesterdays announcement and news articles were ahead of the final action."
Rep. Hamilton issued a statement on July 24th explaining, "Both The Town of Carolina Beach and I acted on good faith regarding my ability to serve both the Town and in the NCGA. We did so on information we received from the legislative ethics staff, who advised us based on their knowledge and research that it would be lawful and appropriate and I could do both. My personal ethics would never have allowed the process to move forward at all without clearance from the ethics committee. Based on information received today about an obscure statute specific to town managers of
towns with populations greater that 3,000, state law says that I must resign as soon as I accept this position. This changes the nature of my decision. In the past Carolina Beach has experienced considerable political activity. I was comfortable working with the existing Mayor and Council. However, there is an election in November, and elections have consequences. I was OK with this uncertainty when my resignation was not eminent. I will continue to serve in the North Carolina General Assembly and fight hard for my constituents in District 18. I have worked diligently and effectively and will continue to rail against the current majorities efforts to undermine public education. There are many more battles ahead that I intend to fight on behalf of women, children, minorities, the elderly, the disadvantaged, students, teachers, the sick – the list is too long. I must to fight for the best interests of District 18 and all North Carolinians.”
The "obscure statute" that Hamilton was referring to is contained in Chapter 160A of State Law governing Cities and Town's and is very well known since it serves as the specific set of governing rules set by the State Legislature many years ago under which all Town Managers in North Carolina operate on a daily basis.
Richard Poole, Chairman of the New Hanover County Democratic Party said July 24th, “Susi Hamilton has fought hard for the people of District 18, and has stood against the attacks on women, children, minorities, voters, education and so much more. She has our full confidence and support. We need her voice in Raleigh."
Later the Town posted a statement on their Facebook page explaining, "After last week’s announcement that state Rep. Susi Hamilton would be our next Town Manager and her subsequent decision not to take the position, many citizens have asked what will happen next. The Town has
some previous candidates who have continued to express interest as well as others who have recently inquired about the position. We will reopen the recruitment phase for an additional two weeks, then evaluate the candidates and work toward hiring a new manager within the next four weeks. This timetable, however, is subject to change as we search for the right fit for Carolina Beach."
The Town had authored a contract for Hamilton to accept the manager’s position in May of this year.
Interim Town Manager Bruce Shell stated on several occasions the person chosen for the position had not yet informed other parties of their decision and had commitments that needed to be met before making a public announcement. Until that time the Town would not release the name of the new manager.
The Council was previously scheduled to meet with Hamilton one day in early May of this year. They were to meet with her in pairs of two throughout the afternoon. If more than two Council members meet, it's considered a quorum and an official meeting.
The Town has refused media requests to release a copy of the contract that was previously drawn up by the Town for Hamilton's employment saying it would be public record had she been hired, but since she was not, public record laws do not apply.
Democrat Representative Hamilton serves District 18 (Brunswick and New Hanover Counties) and is in her second term in the NC House.