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Calabash commissioners no-shows at special meetings

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

CALABASH—The mayor and two commissioners refused to take part in a specially called meeting to go into closed session last week, then were no-shows when the session was recessed until Tuesday.

Calabash Mayor Anthony Clemmons, Mayor Pro Tem Forrest King and town commissioner Bill Dixon balked at the meeting called Feb. 20 because the town attorney wasn’t present.

When town attorney Mark Lewis showed up for the second meeting Tuesday afternoon, a closed session could not be called because Clemmons, King and Dixon did not show up.

At the first meeting Friday, Clemmons said the commissioners who had called for the closed session to discuss personnel matters—Dixon, Emily DiStasio and Cecelia Herman—had not provided adequate information about the meeting’s content.

Dixon said he thought it had to do with a town employee who had gotten “his feelings hurt” by other employees at town hall. Clemmons then called for a 15-minute recess.

When the meeting resumed, Herman said she had not received a call asking about the content of the meeting but it was a matter that needed to be discussed in closed session.

King said someone who knew the details prior to the meeting should have sat down with Clemmons “and brought him up to speed on it so he could make a decision as to whether or not the [town] attorney should be at the meeting.”

Herman said she thought King was missing the point.

“I don’t think it’s the mayor’s call on whether our town attorney attends our meetings,” she said. “I think it’s the board call. It’s not the mayor. He doesn’t have the authority. It is the board in this town that has the authority.”

“I agree with that,” Clemmons said. “However, the mayor should have the option.”

He said he was not made privy to the substance of the meeting to discern whether it required the town attorney’s presence.

“I’ve been kept in the dark with the other commissioners, for what reason I do not know,” he said.

“No discredit to you, but you’re not the informational center of the town,” Clemmons then told Herman.

Herman reiterated Clemmons never called to ask her.

Clemmons said he asked town clerk Kelley Southward to obtain additional information as to why the meeting was being called.

King said to discuss something of such importance without the town attorney was a bad idea.

Commissioner John Melahn suggested they go into closed session to determine if the topic is appropriate.

King then asked Melahn if he knew what the closed session was about.

“You have no other information more than what’s on that piece of paper?” King asked.

Melahn said he didn’t.

“The point being is, guys, we should work as a team,” Clemmons said. “And it is important that we are discussing this.”

In the future, if someone calls a closed session, he said it is professional courtesy to provide information to fellow board members, the town administrator and town clerk so they can be prepared. He said notice should be given in a sealed envelope.

DiStasio said they had not done that before.

Clemmons said commissioners have always known in the past what closed sessions were about and weren’t so secretive.

“Why don’t we go into closed session and then you’ll find out why it’s important,” DiStasio said.

Herman later called the question. Clemmons said she didn’t have the floor. He asked who wanted to go into closed session. King said he did not.

Herman, Melahn and DiStasio said they did.

Clemmons, King and Dixon then removed themselves from their seats and went and sat in chairs in the meeting room.

“You’re no longer a quorum, and the only legal action as I understand from Roberts Rules is for you to adjourn without further discussion,” Clemmons said.

He told the remaining three commissioners, “y’all proceed at your own risk, because I will report it.”

King said he felt what was pending for the proposed closed session was “some kind of statement against a town employee. Without the attorney present, I don’t think that’s following due process and I’ll have no part of it.”