Belhaven removes town manager

Published 4:47 pm Tuesday, December 11, 2007

By Staff
Councilman George Ebron resigns
Staff Writer
BELHAVEN — A new Belhaven Town Council made ousting Town Manager Tim Johnson their first item of business Monday night.
The move ends an embattled relationship between Johnson and Mayor Adam O’Neal, who was reelected to the position by a sizable majority over Alderman and former-mayor Charles Boyette in November.
Once the new board was sworn in Monday, Councilman Steve Carawan made the motion that “Belhaven no longer requires the services of Town Manager Tim Johnson, and I would like to make the motion that he remove himself from these premises immediately.”
The motion was seconded by Councilman Mac Pigott and passed. The audience launched into applause.
Johnson and O’Neal have lashed out at each other in a bitter battle over the running of the town. Until Monday, O’Neal had only one supporter on the board, Carawan. The last election turned that tide.
Nelson Guy, a former mayor, Pigott and Robert Stanley, who aligned themselves with O’Neal, were elected to the council over incumbents Cynthia Heath and Albert Baker, unseating a council that frequently sided with Boyette and Johnson.
After the vote, Councilman George Ebron drew O’Neal’s attention to a letter he’d given O’Neal before the meeting started. It contained Ebron’s resignation and the board voted to accept it.
Ebron’s only comment was “this is the end of my duty, thank you to the people of Belhaven.”
Three times Johnson made an attempt to speak to the board and three times O’Neal had to gavel him down. In the end, Johnson’s only comment was “Thank you and have a nice day.”
Once the new board was installed, O’Neal passed out a new 20-item agenda of his own. Johnson had prepared the original agenda.
The board voted to name Gwinn Leverett as interim manager and decided to form a search committee.
Another new face will be Arthur “Budd” Cockrell. He was named town attorney Monday. Keith Mason resigned the position last week.
In August, a paragraph that O’Neal said was “entirely fabricated” was stricken from the minutes of the Town Council’s June meeting.
The minutes of that meeting, without the paragraph in question, were approved by the Town Council at its meeting Monday.
O’Neal said he objected to the paragraph being included in the June minutes because it contained a statement that Johnson did not make at the June meeting. That paragraph reported that Johnson said he would set up a meeting between the council, the mayor, members of the N.C. Division of Community Assistance and Wynne View officials to try to resolve a performance finding against the town. It also stated that Johnson told the council of his intentions to appeal the performance finding.
O’Neal and Councilman Steve Carawan contended the paragraph was fabricated to justify Johnson’s actions after the fact.
That same month the council voted 4-1 o sign a consent agreement that could end the public-records lawsuit between the mayor and town officials.
During a special meeting the council agreed to turn over e-mails that Mayor Adam O’Neal had requested, if he provides copies of his own correspondence from recent months. Carawan cast the lone dissenting vote.