Following the resignation of two council members this month, the Town of Frankford was unable to come to a unanimous decision as to who should fill the seats earlier this week.
A special meeting was called by the council following the resignation of Jesse Truitt on Aug. 3 and Velicia Melson on Aug. 11, to potentially appoint two citizens to finish out their terms.
According to the town charter, the positions must be filled within 45 days from the date of resignation. Truitt’s seat must be filled by Sept. 17, while Melson’s must be filled by Sept. 25.
At the Aug. 18 meeting, Mayor Joanne Bacon said four residents had sent letters of interest. Council Members Charles Shelton and Pam Davis said they had not seen all four names.
Bacon shared that Marty Presley, Skip Ash, Elizabeth Carpenter and Dayna Aliberti had all offered to fill the vacancies.
“I think we have some good ones,” said Davis.
Bacon confirmed that all four were older than 18 and legal residents of the town.
Resident Jerry Smith made a suggestion to the council during their deliberations.
“One of the things I would hope you would all bear in mind is the people who have shown an interest in this town,” he said, “who have invested their time here, who have come to the meetings and have been seriously involved in what happens in these meetings.”
“That is part of my criteria,” said Bacon.
Shelton said he was not ready to vote that evening.
“I’m not ready to make a decision right now.”
“Pam, are you ready to vote tonight?” asked Bacon of Davis.
“Yeah, out of the four I could,” responded Davis. “I think we got four really good ones, considering.”
There was some confusion as to what constituted a quorum or majority vote, with the council only having three active members remaining.
Bacon read the town charter’s section related to quorums aloud to the council and those present.
“In the general performance of their duties, the acts, doings and determinations of a majority of the entire Council shall be as good as the acts, doings and determinations of all of the members of Council, but if a less number be present at any regular or properly called special meeting, they may adjourn from time to time and may compel the attendance of absent members in such manner and under such penalties as may be prescribed by ordinance adopted by a majority of the entire Council.
“No ordinance, resolution, motion, order or other act of Council, except as immediately hereinabove provided for, shall be valid unless it received the affirmative vote of a majority of all members elected to Council.’
“Our council is down to three members at the moment,” she said, pausing. “In my opinion, I think we have a majority.”
“If he’s not ready to make a decision, we can’t rush him,” said Davis of Shelton, adding that she was ready to vote.
Bacon told Davis she would have to make a motion to appoint residents to the vacancies. Davis then moved to appoint Presley and Carpenter to the council. Bacon then said in order to second, she would have to turn the meeting over to Davis.
Town Administrator Terry Truitt recommended that Bacon review a portion of an email sent by former town solicitor Dennis Schrader, who resigned from his position with the Town in March.
Bacon abruptly moved to adjourn, with no decision being made that evening.
Following the meeting, an email from resident Greg Welch was sent to Davis and Bacon, along with other residents and property owners, regarding the special meeting.
“Please contact Dennis Schrader and confirm his opinion that the decision on a council seat replacement must be three votes. To make this decision unanimous could gridlock the Town indefinitely,” he wrote.
“It makes no sense that this decision has to be unanimous. If two of the three remaining council members agree on the two replacements, you have a quorum of the entire existing council. Tonight’s meeting was a waste of everyone’s time.”
Carpenter responded to the email, stating Schrader no longer serves as solicitor to the council. She questioned why he was involved in the issue and who authorized he be contacted, and asked if he was “paid taxpayer dollars to give an opinion when he is not the current legal representation of record for the Town.”
“If he is not the approved/hired legal representation for the Town, does this void his opinion and interpretation of the law?” wrote Carpenter.
As for the issue of what constitutes a quorum in the council’s present state, Carpenter said it was unclear to her why a vote of 2-1 was insufficient.
“While it is widely acknowledged that the council has five members, if there are not five members, then one must take a majority of the members who are on the council — in this case, two of three.”
Carpenter also stated that she was upset about Shelton not voting that evening and asked how much time the council members were given to review the letters sent by those interested in serving the Town.
“As a citizen of this town, I am tired of the stalemate, pushing things off, tabling for another time. This is a waste of everyone’s time and taxpayer dollars and prevents the Town from moving forward in a positive way.”
The following morning, Schrader responded to the emails, stating he had been contacted by Truitt to review the special meeting’s agenda.
“Because of the unique circumstances of two simultaneous resignations from the Town Council and my agreement with you (Joanne) that I would assist in a smooth transition, Terry asked me on Aug. 11 to review and comment on the proposed agenda, and I agreed to do so. After reviewing it, I revised it to satisfy FOIA requirements,” he wrote on Aug. 19. “I also called Terry and reminded her of Council Rules 5.5 and 6.1, and sent her a copy of the rules for her reference and to give to each of the council members prior to the meeting.
“Rule 5.5 requires that three (3) affirmative votes to approve any matter. Where three (3) members remain, as is the case here, to approve a matter requires a unanimous vote.”
Schrader also noted that the council should be aware that when they fill the vacancies, candidates chosen must be selected to complete a former council person’s specific term.
He also addressed Carpenter’s question related to his being paid for his services.
“To address one of Ms. Carpenter’s concerns, since my resignation in March, no bills have been sent for my services,” he concluded. “I trust this is helpful information.”
As of Coastal Point’s Wednesday news deadline, a second special meeting had yet to be scheduled by the Town. The next meeting is to be posted on the Town’s website, at frankfordde.us.