Oak Island council decide to not air candidate forums on television

Reported by Gavin Johnson - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

OAK ISLAND, NC (WECT) - In the past, coastal town residents have been able to watch candidate forums on television.  This year - that's not the case.

Helen Cashwell with the Oak Island group Concerned Citizens held a town council forum Wednesday night.  Before the forum began, she had to remind residents it wouldn't be shown on the town's government TV channel.

"This is an important forum because the forum won't be televised," said Cashwell.

Earlier this week, council members decided not to allow any candidate forums to be televised.

"I think they're trying to keep control of the town - that's what this issue is all about," said Cashwell.  "We wouldn't have this many people running for council if they weren't dissatisfied with what's going on."

Mayor Johnie Vereen, who is up for re-election, had no vote in the matter because he's the mayor.  According to Vereen, council members were just tying to enforce a policy that was put into effect in 2002.

"We got called to task a year and a half ago that we weren't following that policy and I think the town was trying to follow the policy," said Vereen.

Some candidates, like Betty Wallace, who is also running for mayor, say not televising the forums is unfair.  She says keeping the forums off the air helps incumbents, because no one sees the competition.

"I can only assume they're denying it because they don't want the public to have information on the other candidates running," said Wallace.

Vereen said town council will have a meeting Monday to discuss the issue.

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