SP Appearance Commission Members Quit in Protest
A controversy hanging over the Southern Pines Appearance Commission since the resignation of Chairman Greg Zywocinski and four other members earlier this week may take some time to dissipate.
Zywocinski walked out of Tuesday’s monthly commission meeting, while Vice Chairman Bud Wallen, Andrea Wise-Leech, Suzy Morgan and Joyce White all submitted their resignations the next day.
All claim the Town Council has politicized the appointment process.
“To politicize the finest working group of volunteer citizens in this government is an enormous mistake,” Wise-Leech said. “We’ve been above politics and such a collegial group. I am sick to leave and give this up. It was not an easy decision. I just wish there was some way to salvage this.”
The former commission members are upset because they claim the Town Council did not seek their input before appointing three new members — Carol Haney (wife of former Mayor Mike Haney), Ed Garrison and Bertha Shaw — last month to replace longtime commission members Blanche Woodruff (wife of former Councilman David Woodruff), Joyce Jackson and Lester Seidenberg, whose terms had expired.
In addition, White was reappointed to a second term, and Zywocinski, who had served three terms, was granted another year because he had just been appointed chairman.
The council recently decided to enforce a two-term limit for members of volunteer entities, making the Appearance Commission the last to be brought in line.
In the recent past, the 13-member commission sent its recommendations to the council for approval.
“The entire change was presented to us at our January meeting as a fait accompli,” Wise-Leech said. “Clearly, the mayor (David McNeill) wants total control over this commission.”
McNeill, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said Wednesday that “nothing could be further from the truth.”
“Recommendations for appointments to these committees are welcomed and encouraged, but tempered to a point where it does not evolve into a sitting self-appointing committee of the town,” McNeill said. “The council had to address the matter at some point. Why not now?”
McNeill cited the town’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), which reads, “The Town Council may from time to time, but generally at times of appointment, appoint members at its sole discretion based upon the proportional representation. Recommendations of the Appearance Commission on appointments will be submitted to the Council for review and consideration.”
Council member Mike Fields noted that there were three applications on file with the town when the terms expired for Woodruff, Jackson and Seidenberg last Oct. 31.
“The Appearance Commission did not interview any of those applicants, but instead asked that the five members with expiring terms be reappointed,” Fields said. “The council did reappoint (White) for a second term and allowed (Zywocinski) to stay an additional year to finish his term as chairman. The others were not reappointed because of the new term limits.”
Assistant Town Manager David White said in a Dec. 28, 2011, memo to the council that the Appearance Commission “did not review any of the applications on file at this point in time since all the existing members would like to be reappointed.”
Zywocinski said the council never sought the commission’s input on the new appointees.
“I think to have not been told anything was totally disrespectful to all of us. That’s what hurt us so badly,” he said. “For me, I could not, in good conscience, continue to serve. If I remain, I’m acquiescing. I cannot go along with it.
“It’s a shame that all of these people are leaving. It’s not about me, but I could solve this problem today. It would just take a little compromise. All of this was unnecessary.”
Wise-Leech, who took McNeill to task at Tuesday’s meeting, said the change in the selection process was “at the heart of the matter.”
“This is not about term limits,” Wise-Leech said. “We’re all ‘OK’ with that idea. This has been going on since last fall. We were never informed or consulted in any way.”
She told McNeill at the meeting, “We know better than you.”
Wallen, who took over the meeting after Zywocinski walked out, resigned on Wednesday in an email to David White.
“I am proud to have been associated with so many talented and dedicated people that are both current and former members of the Southern Pines Appearance Commission,” Wallen said in the email.
Morgan and Joyce White also resigned by email.
“It has now come to light that under the current administration, these are political appointments at the whim of the mayor,” Morgan said in her email. “For that reason I am resigning. This makes no sense, nor can it be in the best interest of the goals of the Appearance Commission and service to the town.”
White said she was “truly sorry that this ended up this way.”
“Because I have truly felt honored to be on the commission until these events have transpired,” she said in her email. “I do wish the Appearance Commission the best in working to keep our town as beautiful as it is now.”
Woodruff, Jackson and Seidenberg were invited to last Tuesday’s monthly Town Council meeting to receive certificates of appreciation for their service on the Appearance Commission, but none attended.
Woodruff, who was there, declined to accept the certificate on his wife’s behalf.
The Appearance Commis-sion studies the visual problems and needs of the town as well as the ETJ planning/zoning jurisdiction.
Assisting in the implementation of programs of general community beautification.
Providing leadership and guidance in matters of community design and appearance to individual, organizations and agencies.
Studying the visual characteristics and problems of the town, including surveys and inventories.
Of the 13 members, 10 are residents of the town and the other three are residents of Moore County within the ETJ.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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