The new council members are sworn in by municipal judge Randy Haynes at Monday night’s meeting. | Virginia Spears

Archived Story

Council spars over leader

Published 2:00pm Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The first meeting of the newly elected council came to a standstill Monday night when members were asked to elect the new council president.

Following the installation of Mayor Charles Shaw and each of the council members, the council divided into two camps: District 1 councilman Bobby Tapley, District 5 councilman Jim Spann and District 6 councilman Tony Goss in support of Spann as president and District 2 councilwoman Sherry Ellison-Simpson, District 3 councilman Bob Howard and District 4 councilman Billy Ray Wall in support of Howard as president.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re in this tie,” Howard said. “I’m sure Jim would do a great job … but it’s just been the custom that the senior member coming over from the previous council (has become the council president). I know what happened last week, two months ago, a year ago, or three years ago in the city. That’s why I was interested in serving.”

Spann said, “I’ve been on the council before, and I keep up with council business and city business. I would like to be in that capacity because within the seven of us, I see a change … this group here is going to ask a lot of questions and expect a lot of answers, and things are going to be different from how they’ve been in the past … and for that reason I’d like to serve as council president.”

City Clerk Harriett Scott said the meeting could not move forward until a president was selected, and thus the meeting sat at a standstill for more than 10 minutes – amid laughter and murmurs of “Flip a coin!” from the audience – before Scott sought the advice of Municipal Judge Randy Haynes.

“The only thing I might add is perhaps if they could work it out for one to serve two years and the other to serve two years,” Haynes said. “Otherwise it’s up to them to decide – that’s just a suggestion like any citizen could make.”

Scott then proposed a one-year term as council president, which was unanimously approved.

Council members then unanimously voted Howard as president and Spann as president pro tempore.

Council members then approved the rules and procedures for the council, which Scott said would be published in The Outlook.

“The main change is moving the council meeting from 5:30 to 5 p.m.,” Scott said.

The council unanimously adopted the rules and procedures.

Howard then appointed council members to standing committees as follows: Spann to the finance committee, Tapley to public safety committee, Ellison-Simpson to parks and recreation committee, Goss to utilities committee, Wall to public works committee and himself to the buildings and properties committee.

Howard then called for a motion for immediate consideration for an ordinance to designate Shaw as superintendent of the municipal utility system and set the salary.

“It has to be unanimous to go forward,” Howard said.

However, the vote failed 5-1 with Goss as the only member against. Scott said the ordinance will placed on the agenda for the next council meeting and will not require immediate consideration, which means it can pass with a two-thirds vote.

Council members then unanimously appointed Steve Hays as finance director, Kem Jones as fire chief, Charles Rafford as police chief, and Scott as city clerk.

Council members voted 5-0 to appoint Larkin Radney as city attorney and Haynes as municipal judge, with Goss abstaining from the vote.

The council also approved a resolution to designate Aliant Bank, Wells Fargo, BB&T, Regions Bank as depositories of city funds.

Shaw and the council members thanked those in attendance, and Tapley assured the audience of the new council’s unity.

“Even though we disagreed on who should lead, we’re all friends up here and we all get along,” Tapley said. “All of us are going to work with Bob and Jim. Although we disagreed up front, we’re still united and a team up here.”