Choco lawsuit dismissed

Published 8:09 pm Friday, August 1, 2014

CHOCOWINITY — The lawsuit filed against the Town of Chocowinity and its Town Commissioners has been voluntarily dismissed.

In early July, a group of Beaufort County residents filed the lawsuit in response to what they perceived as a violation of North Carolina’s open meetings law at a public hearing on June 3. The lawsuit alleged that the town and its commissioners had ample warning that a large crowd would attend the public hearing on the inclusion of language in the existing zoning ordinance specifically allowing for a detention center, in addition to other public safety facilities: sheriff’s office, fire/EMS stations, 911 centers.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, Chocowinity Town Attorney Keith Mason said there was no violation of the open meetings law as everyone in attendance on June 3 was given the opportunity to sign up to speak; the names of those who did sign up to speak were called several times and all those who had signed up did speak with the exception of one person.

Monday, the lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed, meaning counsel for the plaintiffs, Greenville lawyer Mark Stewart, filed to have it dismissed.

“In effect, upon filing, it removes it from the court docket and allows the clerk to close it,” Mason said.

Mason said the plaintiffs did, however, have a year in which to revise and re-file the lawsuit.

“I’m just glad they dropped it,” said Chocowinity Mayor Jimmy Mobley. “We’ve always tried to five people the opportunity to speak. We’ve never had anything to hide from anybody.”

While the controversy over the June 3 meeting may have passed, Chocowinity’s Town Board will continue to address the plan for a detention center in the Chocowinity Industrial Park at the meeting Tuesday night. Mid-East Commission Planner Bryant Buck will present the detention center plans to town commissioners, in addition to his recommendations of conditions concerning setbacks, landscaping and similar issues the town might need to put in place before ground is broken, according to Mobley.

The Chocowinity Town Board meets at Town Hall, 3391 U.S. Highway 17 South, Chocowinity, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.