CORNELIUS – The Cornelius Town Board remains a four-seat commission after months of vetting 19 candidates.
When former Mayor Jeff Tarte left office in January to join the N.C. Senate, Lynette Rinker was chosen by her fellow commissioners to become mayor for the remaining term.
Since then, any ties in the commissioners’ votes have been broken by Rinker.
Commissioner Dave Gilroy made a motion at the May 20 board meeting to fill that vacant seat with ex-commissioner Thurman Ross.
“The only candidate that made any sense to me was the next highest vote getter in the last election,” Gilroy said. “I probably disagreed with Thurman more times than not over the six-plus years that we served together. It wasn’t my personal choice to select my favorite among candidates. It was really the people's vote.”
During the last election, Ross lost the seat he held for 16 years by only two votes to Commissioner John Bradford.
Bradford countered the motion with a substitute requesting that the seat not be filled until every candidate be given a “fair and equitable” opportunity to interview, that each interview be as “consistent as possible in both structure and length” and completed by June 17.
“It has nothing to do with Mr. Ross. I interviewed Mr. Ross and thought he did a really nice job,” Bradford said. “But, to unilaterally sit here tonight and say you are going to nominate a guy, when with all due respect, Mr. Gilroy, you haven’t interviewed a single candidate, I find that to be really puzzling.”
Applications for the seat were submitted in two waves. Seven people submitted applications in the first wave, while 12 more people stepped up for the second.
Bradford was the only commissioner to interview every single candidate for the position.
Commissioners Jeff Hare and Chuck Travis interviewed the first seven, but didn’t meet with anyone from the second group.
Gilroy interviewed none of the candidates.
Hare said he agreed with Gilroy’s suggestion that the next highest vote getter be chosen.
“It wasn’t our job to pick a new candidate based on our personal biases. It just seemed like it was more power than we were granted in this seat,” Hare said. “Everyone of the candidates, both from the first round and the second round, could have run for office in 2011, like the five of us did. But none of them did, other than Thurman. He was vetted by the public. It became more obvious to me that Thurman was the best person to step back into the seat.”
Travis supported Bradford’s substitute motion for all commissioners revisit the interview process.
“I interviewed all the first seven candidates and felt like we had found some wonderful folks that could fill the seat,” Travis said. “We could not reach a conclusion, in fact, we couldn’t even get to a point where we could reach a simple majority. Quite frankly, I didn’t think we had the support of the board to even fill the seat. Therefore, I didn’t devalue the time with the additional candidates to ask them to come over and sit down and talk to me or have the conversations with me. That was a mistake on my part and I appreciate that (Bradford) went through that effort.”
After the 2-2 vote, Rinker broke the tie as she has done several times over the past four months.
“If it was never the intention for the four of you to put anyone else but Mr. Ross (in the seat), you should have said that then before we asked 19 people to submit their resumes,” Rinker said. “I think all the worthy candidates need to be fully vetted and compared before we vote.”
She approved Bradford’s substitute motion to revisit the interview process.
With almost half the year gone, candidates for mayor and commissioner will be submitting their intent to run this summer with elections in November.
In other news, the board:
• Voted to approve requests by developer Jake Palillo to allow for a single-family lot at Pender Pointe and to construct a new road located at the intersection of John Connor Road and Belle Isle Drive. The board also voted to approve a proposed closure of John Connor road, past the intersection of Belle Isle Drive to the terminus at Lake Norman, that was associated with the Pender Point Development.
• Voted to approve an update to Ordinance 93 that gives the Parks and Recreation director the ability to issue permits for alcohol consumption at park events.
• Voted to appoint Sid Sadlowski as a Cornelius representative on the Visit Lake Norman Board to replace Paul Yates.
• Continued a public hearing on the 2014 town budget to the next board meeting.