The Board of Aldermen has requested that its procedural manual be rewritten after two aldermen had a confrontation during a discussion that the town attorney said violated the N.C. Open Meetings Law.
The board asked Town Manager Michael Brooks to clarify items dealing with conducting regular meetings and closed sessions. The decision came two days after Mayor Pro Tem Jimmie Dalton and Alderman Kenneth Hawkins argued after an agenda meeting.Hawkins wrote a letter to the Board of Aldermen and Mayor Art Gwaltney requesting that the mayor assure Hawkins that he would be safe. He also wanted assurance that the board would not violate the N.C. Open Meetings Law. Until that happens, Hawkins said he would not attend any board functions.
Hawkins was the only board member not in attendance Monday at an open forum to get public opinion on an unoccupied building that Madison might accept as a gift from Unifi Inc.
``I think this is going to resolve itself,' Hawkins said.
Hawkins said he's confident the mayor will write him a letter. He added, ``If nothing happens that would make me feel personally threatened, I think I will come back to the board.'
The board has requested that simple language be used to indicate what the Aldermen can discuss during agenda meetings and when they are allowed to meet in closed session.
It will also outline how much warning the board must be given before an item can be discussed, Brooks said. The revised manual also will include civility guidelines indicating that board members should not interrupt each other, Brooks said.
Despite the board's closed discussion Sept. 8, Town Attorney Jack Webster said he advised the board that it was against the Open Meetings Law to convene privately after a meeting that had not been properly announced.
Prior to Webster's advice, Mayor Art Gwaltney had called for everyone except the Aldermen to leave the meeting room after the agenda meeting.
Then Webster and several other people left.
When they did, the board, at Dalton's request, began to discuss some issues about the police department, the mayor said.
Then, Hawkins apparently asked a question and soon got up to leave the meeting.
Hawkins said Dalton threatened him as he was leaving.
Dalton admits to confronting Hawkins but said it was a misunderstanding and that he did not threaten Hawkins.