Belhaven hires new attorney

Published 7:02 pm Thursday, February 11, 2016

BELHAVEN — The Town of Belhaven is enlisting the help of a new attorney for advising its eminent domain proceedings for the old hospital property.



Carlos Mahoney of Glenn, Mills, Fisher & Mahoney in Durham is replacing Belhaven’s former attorney Dahmian Blue.

Mayor Adam O’Neal officially announced the switch at Belhaven’s regularly scheduled Board of Aldermen meeting Monday.

O’Neal said Dahmian Blue “ran into some things” that were outside of his expertise, thus prompting the new hire.

Mahoney is a Nashville, Tennessee, native and has been a partner at the Durham firm since 2004, according to the firm’s website. His areas of proficiency include: personal injury and wrongful death, civil rights, commercial and business law, employment law, real property, trusts and estates and professional negligence.

“The short answer is I am not representing them on their current, or the lawsuit that was dismissed in October,” Mahoney said. “I’m just looking into the situation and advising them on what their options are at this time.”

He said he has agreed to cap his hourly fees at $5,000 for the Town. O’Neal said that fee would be paid from money allocated for the eminent domain process last year.

Any additional fees would have to be covered within 180 days once the $6 million United States Department of Agriculture loan is secured to help cover the costs of the Town’s reopening of the hospital, according to Mahoney.

However, if the loan money is not secured, the Town of Belhaven would have to cover those subsequent fees, Mahoney said.

O’Neal said he thinks the lawyer’s fees pale in comparison to the consequences of residents not having access to an emergency room.

Belhaven’s lawsuit against Vidant Health and Pantego Creek LLC, which owns the hospital property, began as a result of Vidant’s decision to close Vidant Pungo Hospital in July 2014.

The lawsuit alleged breach of contract, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and unfair trade practices. The North Carolina NAACP was also involved and filed a Title VI complaint of its own.

In October, Superior Court Judge Stuart Albright threw out the lawsuit, but the town repealed the decision about a month later, and the state NAACP answered by filing another complaint.

Vidant officials maintain they are still committed to health care in the area, and some Belhaven residents think it’s time to embrace new avenues of medical care. Vidant is still making progress on the construction for its $6 million, multispecialty clinic in Belhaven and hopes to start seeing patients in June.

The issue has proved divisive for the town’s residents, but O’Neal remains confident in his goal to reopen the hospital and the eminent domain proceedings.

“He’s extremely confident that we won’t have any problem with that,” he said of Mahoney.