The Pinehurst Village Council may be installing two new members this week, but allegations of ethics violations levied among sitting members may not be over yet.
While one of those two council members accused — Kevin Drum — lost his re-election bid earlier this month and is stepping down, the other — Lydia Boesch — remains on the council and shows no sign of letting the matter go away.
The Village Council never voted to formally censure either Boesch or Drum for the incidents that raised questions when held up against the council’s code of ethics. Mayor John Strickland no longer plans to pursue any such vote, writing in a letter in Sunday’s edition of The Pilot that the council “considers these Code of Ethics matters to be closed.”
Those matters dealt with Boesch’s private meeting in September with the village’s police chief to gauge his opinion of the village manager. That meeting wasn’t disclosed to the rest of the Village Council until Chief Glen Webb reported it to Pinehurst’s human resources manager.
In an unrelated incident but around the same time, Drum aimed personal insults at the president of Pinehurst Business Partners in an email dialogue with her that began as a discussion of whether or not the group should be promoting meet-and-greet events with Village Council candidates.
Even if the majority of council members voted to reprimand Boesch, Drum, or both of them, it would have had no practical effect, since the council can’t remove elected board members.
Instead, during the Oct. 26 meeting, Strickland read prepared remarks stating that the “consensus of the Village Council” was to disapprove of their behavior.
As the third-highest vote-getter of the four candidates running in this year’s election, Drum will not be returning to the Village Council. His seat and that of Judy Davis, who did not run for re-election, will be filled by Jeff Morgan and Pat Pizzella. They were scheduled to be sworn in during a special Village Council meeting Tuesday.
Drum initially apologized for his conduct and assented that he may have run afoul of the council’s internal ethics guidelines. But he’s since accused Strickland and Davis and Council Member Jane Hogeman of attempting to influence the Nov. 2 election by airing the issue publicly.
During his last meeting as a sitting Council member this month, Drum congratulated the winners but then continued on.
“I mostly want to thank my friends and family, and my supporters who have watched while I’ve endured and witnessed defamatory personal attacks. Still, through it all I’m honored to have served four years as a volunteer and four years as a councilman.
“I put everything I had into making my home for 50 years better. I left nothing on the table, and served my community with integrity, honesty and a long-term resident perspective,” Drum said, going on to suggest that “there are bigger things going on.”
“I will now put all my effort into making the Village of Pinehurst council better and ensure the politicization of a city council could never happen again in these halls. It cannot be tolerated to have our public servants who represent the community work behind the walls of secrecy to defame someone to affect an upcoming election.”
Drum and Boesch have both accused Strickland, Davis and Hogeman of acting unethically themselves in communicating via phone and email about the alleged ethics violations prior to the Oct. 12 meeting. State law prohibits a majority of any elected board’s members from discussing business outside of a properly-noticed meeting.
Boesch, who remains on the Village Council, has done so through legal channels. After the Village Council discussed her meeting with Webb on Oct. 12, Boesch retained Raleigh attorney Philip Isley.
Through a public records request, Isley and Boesch have obtained emails and text messages between Strickland, Hogeman and Davis as well as memos from village attorney Mike Newman to the mayor. In a five-page letter to the Village Council last month, Isley instructed that all such correspondence discussing potential ethics violations be retained, as they may be relevant if Boesch decides to file a lawsuit.
That hasn’t happened yet, but Boesch said that unlike the mayor she’s not prepared to put the issue behind her.
“I have been accused, in very visible public meetings, of behaving unethically,” she said, describing the way the Village Council has handled the accusations against herself and Drum as a “regrettable black eye” on the village.
Boesch said that the memos from Newman furnished in response to her attorney’s public records request had been redacted to protect the attorney-client relationship. Boesch is challenging that as well.
“If anything, maybe this has brought to light some issues that needed to be revealed, like who does Mike Newman represent? Does an elected official in the Village of Pinehurst get due process when accused of ethics violations?” she said.
During the initial discussion on Oct. 12, she and Drum both said they felt “blindsided” by the charges of misconduct. Boesch said that the only notification she received was an email from Strickland containing a copy of the council’s ethics policy and the statements submitted by Webb and Village Human Resources Director Angie Kantor.
“I really want this to be over and I don’t enjoy being part of this, but so many things went wrong, I want to know what happened. I never want this to happen again to anybody on the Village Council.”
Boesch said that she asked Webb to meet with her because she wanted to find out why the relationship between Pinehurst’s leadership and Moore County’s representatives in the state legislature had apparently soured.
Kantor, Pinehurst’s human resources director, contacted Boesch in mid-September about a week after the meeting with Webb to relay his discomfort with the meeting. Not long after that, Boesch met with Strickland and Village Manager Jeff Sanborn and thought the matter had been settled.
“I’m trying to find out what happened between that amicable meeting that John and Jeff and I had and three weeks later when this blew up,” she said.
Boesch said that Isley has invited the Village Council, through Newman, to engage in a mediation process.
“You hash everything out and you do it in a private setting,” said Boesch. “We thought this would be a way to resolve this quietly and come away with a resolution that made sense for everybody.”