Got It Wrong, Picerno Says
Nick Picerno has revised the timeline he originally gave to The Pilot concerning his former membership in Dormie Club.
Picerno, chairman of the Moore County Board of Commissioners, said Tuesday that he was working in his yard and did not have access to his records when he was originally interviewed by telephone about the matter.
Picerno gave that explanation Tuesday at the beginning of a special meeting called to discuss the controversial Pine Forest rezoning issue.
In the interview with The Pilot, Picerno said that he paid the membership fee to the exclusive golf club before he filed for a seat on the board in 2008. He said he later changed his mind about membership and asked for and received a refund on the $120,000 initially paid to Dormie Club.
Dormie Club was developed by MHK Ventures Inc., the same company seeking to develop the controversial Pine Forest project. His former relationship raised questions about a possible conflict of interest in deciding the Pine Forest rezoning request. MHK did not officially announce plans for Pine Forest until the summer of 2009.
In his statement, Picerno said he was speaking from memory when interviewed by The Pilot reporter and that the dates in question were not clear in his mind at the time. He later realized that the membership fee was not paid until after the 2008 primary election, he said.
Once he realized the discrepancy, Picerno said he called County Attorney Misty Leland to determine if the brief membership could be considered a conflict of interest. Leland advised that she did not think it was a legal reason for recusal.
At the Tuesday meeting, Picerno offered to ask fellow board members to recuse him if there is a conflict.
"I do not want this important issue to be focused on me," Picerno said.
Leland repeated her opinion that it is not a conflict of interest and reminded the board that state law requires county commissioners to vote on all issues before them unless there is a conflict or clear evidence of prejudice.
"I echo the chairman's comments," said Commissioner Tim Lea. "We don't want it to focus on any one of us. The chairman has said he believes he can be fair and impartial."
Picerno closed the discussion by quipping that he did not intend to return any future calls to The Pilot until he is at home and has had a shower.
Had Picerno been recused, it would have reduced the number of commissioners available to act on the rezoning issue to three. Commissioner Larry Caddell was recused earlier when he expressed concern about his previous service as mayor of Carthage at a time when the town was building a new water plant.
Carthage draws water from Nicks Creek, which has headwaters in the Pine Forest tract.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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