HAMLET — Mayor Bill Bayless sighed in frustration as Hamlet City Council members resurrected their internal feuding during the “comments of council” period Tuesday night, the first meeting member David Lindsey has attended for a few months.
“Why are we beating a dead horse?” Bayless asked in his laconic drawl. “What’s this going to accomplish?”
As Lindsey and council member Jesse McQueen exchanged tensely courteous words during Lindsey’s comment period — Lindsey wanted to address things said while he was absent — Bayless called a five-minute cooling-off period. He and an agitated council member Johnathan Buie left the room.
When they returned, Bayless told council members: “If I have any more problem with carrying on (the meeting), we will have (five-minute breaks) if it takes all night.”
Things then seemed to settle a bit.
During the break, City Manager Jonathan Blanton had retrieved a letter to a legal expert, asking her opinion on whether complaints on Lindsey’s alleged conflicts of interest actually were conflicts.
While Lindsey was gone — he claims illness — council members McQueen and Buie complained about him in absentia, with McQueen asking Blanton to detail their complaints to Frayda Bluestein of the University of North Carolina School of Government, who specializes in questions about conflicts of interest.
When Lindsey gave property to the Seaboard Festival — of which his wife, Kim, is president — did he exhibit a conflict of interest? How about when he voted against a city grant application for park equipment while his wife sought a similar grant for the Seaboard from the same umbrella organization? Or when he allegedly attempted to stall placement of a vintage train the Hamlet Depot Board had won council backing to park downtown?
Bluestein’s letter — which Blanton read aloud — knocked down three claims of conflict and, on the fourth, professed a lack of enough information to make a judgment that was more than speculation.
“Does that put this issue to bed?” Bayless asked wearily, when Blanton had finished reading.
“I didn’t bring it up,” McQueen retorted.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.