Editorial Was an Example of Know-Nothing Journalism
By Greg Zywocinski
Special to The Pilot
As the former chairman of the Southern Pines Appearance Commission, I am compelled to respond to your extremely one-sided editorial of Feb. 19, "Needless Blowup on Appointments."
Your attempt to trivialize a serious matter and smear honorable public servants can only be described, charitably, as know-nothing journalism. Moreover, your editorial drew a variety of negative conclusions about my colleagues without citing one single supporting fact.
Let me acquaint you with a few salient facts:
Appearance Commission members are appointed by the Town Council for three-year terms, with all terms ending on Oct. 31 of the three-year term.
On Oct. 31, 2011, the terms of five commission members were set to expire. Previously, it had been the custom to offer each member the opportunity to serve for an additional term, regardless of the time already served. If they chose to do so, they were routinely appointed for another term, without exception.
On this occasion, all five were asked by a town official if they wished to be reappointed, and each responded in the affirmative. The information was passed to the then-sitting Town Council, which chose not to act.
Let me be clear: The authority of the Town Council to make appointments has never been an issue. We understand this to be the prerogative of the council; however, the appointment process as stipulated in the Code of Ordinances has been for the commission to review all applications and then submit recommendations to the council for approval and appointment. Section 33.02 of the Southern Pines Code of Ordinances specifically states: "Recommendations of the Appearance Commission on appointments will be submitted to the Council for review and consideration."
In this instance, the council ignored the legal stipulations of the ordinance, and we were completely left out of the process. This is what we objected to.
This controversy is not about term limits. When we first heard that the council was considering term limits for the commission, not a single member voiced an objection. The question was whether the provision would be enforced retroactively. If so, we were going to lose four members immediately, including several key members and our newly elected chairman. Our preference was that any term limits for current members be phased in over a period of time.
With respect to any communication problems on our part, as chairman I was in touch with town officials on a regular basis. At our November monthly meeting, we discussed our growing concerns in the presence of Town Manager Reagan Parsons. At the end of the meeting, he indicated to me that the five members up for reappointment would "probably be on the December consent agenda" for approval. This never happened. Meanwhile, everything remained in a state of limbo, which had a very deleterious effect on the morale of the entire commission.
On Dec. 16, I met with then-Mayor-Elect David McNeill. We discussed a number of things, including matters concerning the Appearance Commission. I suggested a course of action that included term limits, with additional suggestions designed to avoid any personnel crisis. Subsequently, in early January, I met with both Councilman Fred Walden and ex-Mayor Mike Haney for the purpose of discussing these matters. Neither Mayor McNeill, Councilman Walden or ex-Mayor Haney ever got back to me.
On Jan. 5, I received a phone message that Carol Haney had been appointed to the Appearance Commission. I passed this on to the members. Within the hour, I received an email from the town manager stating that Carol Haney, Ed Garrison "and a person TBD" (to be determined) would be appointed to replace three of our members. We strongly feel that nepotism, cronyism and favoritism should have no place in the appointment process; otherwise, the integrity of our boards and commissions will be irreparably compromised.
I am most grateful for having had the opportunity to serve on the Southern Pines Appearance Commission, and proud to have been part of the numerous projects accomplished during that time. I am proud to have served with Blanche Woodruff, Joyce Jackson and Lester Seidenberg, public servants who consistently placed service above self.
I am also proud of my colleagues Bud Wallen, Suzy Morgan, Andrea Wise-Leech and Joyce White. For me to step down was an easy decision; for each of them, resignation was a difficult choice. I admire them for the courage of their convictions, and it has been my privilege to serve with them.
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