Council votes to end records spat

Published 4:47 pm Saturday, August 4, 2007

By Staff
Agreement awaits mayor’s signature
News Editor
BELHAVEN — The Belhaven Town Council voted 4-1 Friday to sign a consent agreement that could end the public-records lawsuit between the mayor and town officials, but it becomes binding only with the mayor’s signature.
During a special meeting — that lasted “three minutes, if that,” according to Town Manager Tim Johnson — in Town Hall, the council agreed to turn over e-mail that Mayor Adam O’Neal has requested, if he provides copies of his own correspondence from recent months. Councilman Steve Carawan cast the lone dissenting vote.
Attempts to reach Carawan and O’Neal for comment were not successful Friday.
The consent agreement is the byproduct of a meeting Superior Court Judge Alma Hinton had in chambers with the litigants’ attorneys last month. When O’Neal sued the town manager, town clerk and four council members for e-mail he has requested, Hinton advised the respective lawyers to try to resolve the dispute. The attorneys met with their clients behind closed doors in the Beaufort County Courthouse to try to come to an agreement.
The draft of that agreement is what the council agreed to on Friday. A copy was not available for the media. A copy of the agreement will not be filed with the Beaufort County clerk of court’s office until Monday, Johnson said.
If O’Neal signs the agreement by Monday, Hinton is expected to sign it on Monday. A hearing is scheduled at the Beaufort County Courthouse at 10 a.m. Monday.
If O’Neal signs the consent agreement, it will be binding for “as long as he’s the mayor and I’m the town manager,” Johnson said. If O’Neal does not sign the agreement, the public-records lawsuit will move forward.