Barrett Back In as T'Town Mayor
Ulysses Simpson Grant Barrett Jr. is mayor of Taylortown again.
In a passionate address during a Town Council meeting Tuesday night, Charlotte Worthy apologized publicly to Barrett for what she described as listening to other council members and some town residents instead of to her heart and what she knew of him. She asked if Barrett if he would consider serving as mayor again. He indicated that he would, and Worthy made a motion to elect Barrett to once again lead the town.
Taylortown's council elects a mayor from among its members and can make a change at any time. At the first meeting last year -- after she was the top vote-getter in last November's election -- Worthy joined Jesse Fuller and Ellis Ray to elect Fuller as mayor, displacing Barrett, who was facing criminal charges at the time. With her support, Ray became mayor pro-tem, supplanting Jeff Moody.
Worthy also supported Ray's motion to rescind the council's earlier promise to pay legal costs incurred by Barrett defending actions as mayor that led to a number of misdemeanor charges against him. She switched sides that night to defeat Ray's motion to reinstate former police chief Tim Blakeley. The previous council had fired him in March 2007, and Blakeley filed suit against the town.
This time, Worthy joined Barrett and Moody to approve her motion to elect Barrett as mayor on a 3-1 voite. Fuller voted against. Ray -- a strong opponent of Barrett -- was absent because of illness.
Barrett, who had been on the council for 16 years and served as mayor for most of those years, was re-elected to the council in November, finishing fifth. He had been a lightning bolt for controversy, which culminated with the State Bureau of Investigation arresting him on three misdemeanor charges in January 2007.
Originally launched by former District Attorney Garland Yates, an SBI investigation resulted in the three charges against Barrett. He was accused of violating state laws by acting as a town manager while holding the position of mayor, benefiting from a public contract while being a public officer and violating a fraud statute for allegedly paying a resident's legal bill without the permission of the council. That last charge would have barred him from holding public office if convicted.
Barrett was cleared of all charges in March following trial in Moore County District Court. Some charges had been dropped before trial, and Superior Court Judge Rusty Hammond dismissed another in court. Hammond then found Barrett not guilty of the final charge.
Ray had tried to get the council to fire William Morgan, whom he considered too much a supporter of Barrett, but Morgan remained town attorney. As it happened, Morgan himself was at the meeting Tuesday to report on a pending agreement between Taylortown and the Moore County Board of Commissioners to reduce landfill fees of $186,325 charged for material unearthed digging up illegally buried structures, and to give details of a new identity theft prevention program.
Minor changes in that proposed liability agreement will have to go back to county commissioners for final approval before it can be signed, he said.
"I had no idea this was going to happen," Morgan said afterward, as he waited for the council to complete a closed session interviewing a potential new police officer. "No idea at all."
Southern Pines attorney Bruce Cunningham, who represented Barrett, spoke briefly with Barrett by telephone when the mayor emerged from that meeting.
"Congratulations, Mayor," Cunningham said. "I am smiling."
Barrett had little comment, but appeared clearly pleased by this latest vindication of his many years' service to the town. The next day, congratulatory banners and balloons appeared around town heralding the startling event.
Neither Barrett nor his wife, nor Moody or his wife, or anybody else had had any idea ahead of time what Worthy was about to do. It was not on the agenda for the regular monthly meeting.
"I am not doing everything I did before," Barrett said, to his wife's vigorous nod. "That 17 years of hell is over."
Supporters and well-wishers crowded about the Barretts, the Moodys and the Morgans. Worthy slipped quickly away immediately after the end of the closed session, and Fuller refused comment.
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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