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CALABASH—Calabash Mayor Mary Knight sat at a smaller desk in a much smaller office than where she started out as mayor last year.
A new rug, festively printed in coastal hues—sky blue with yellow sun shapes, covers new laminate flooring—both coverings a recent topic of controversy between Knight and town commissioners.
On the wall of the freshly floored room hangs a framed picture of Jimmy Durante, along with the late entertainer’s famous quote, “Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.”
Knight moved to the back corner room at town hall last year after the town opted to use the old mayor’s office for town staff.
Shortly after her move, controversy erupted when Knight got busy orchestrating repairs and new flooring in the room that she said had mold issues.
At the board’s monthly meeting Dec. 11, the town board voted 3-2 to “remove the powers” of Knight, initiated by a motion of town commissioner Jody Nance, who faulted her for spending $1,152 for the new office flooring.
Nance and fellow commissioners Charles “Buddy” Walton and Sandy Melahn voted in favor. Commissioners Daria Buccilli and Emily DiStasio voted against it.
Seated last week in her office, Knight pointed out the black desk she now uses cost a little more than $100. She said her husband refurbished a matching black bookcase and consignment-shop table holding her laptop computer and printer.
Knight said she understood board members’ concerns that a purchase order was needed for the flooring when she used money from a town building fund to pay for repairs and covering.
Knight reiterated last week the old flooring was in terrible shape. She said town employees who used the room also had issues with it. All of that now has been taken care of, she said.
Knight also outlined a list of expenditures she has spent in the past year as mayor, from December 2011 to December 2012, totaling $3,573.72, including travel expenses for attending out-of-town meetings.
Speaking at the board’s last monthly meeting Jan. 8, Knight said she heard one charge after another she didn’t use proper procedure when the costs were taken out of the $6,000 town building fund.
“When you put money in a building fund, what is it to be used for?” she said. “I’m upset, absolutely, because I don’t like to start a new year like this.”
A majority of the board later voted to change what it deemed conflicting town ordinances. The change requires board direction in making committee appointments, a role traditionally assumed by the mayor.
Buccilli, who cast the only dissenting vote, said the board was “taking away power of the mayor” and one of her duties.
Nance and Melahn said such appointments require board approval.
During discussion on general code of ordinances, Melahn said there is confusion about budgeting and expenditure activities, which need to conform to all code requirements.
Town attorney Mac Tyson said the town has ordinances outlining the form of government and board powers.
“The board, the majority, determines what is going to happen,” he said. “It’s democracy. The republic in Calabash is seated in front of us now.”
The board tabled discussion until Tyson can clarify “what can and can’t be done with monies that has been approved in our budget, according to our ordinances,” Nance said.
The board also approved directing town administrator Chuck Nance to review rules of committees and boards with all boards and committees so they understand them and “so we know what’s going on,” Melahn said.
Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email email@example.com.