SUNSET BEACH, NC (WECT) - Days after a new mayor took office in Sunset Beach, town council in this Brunswick County community is working to limit his powers.
Council members called a special meeting Wednesday to discuss the actions of Mayor Rich Cerrato, who took his oath of office earlier this month. The official purpose of the meeting was to "define the authority of the mayor and council."
Council members took the mayor to task for promises they say he is not allowed to make. One involved a promise in an email to fix a pothole issue on a road that isn't even in town limits.
The other issue involved allowing a family assistance program to use an empty Food Lion building for a holiday gift giving operation, despite not having the proper occupancy permits. Mayor Cerrato says by the time he became aware of the operation, the group only needed a few more hours. Council members claim Cerrato asked certain town employees to look the other way.
"A terrible public relations issue for the town of Sunset Beach, which I really could not support," Mayor Rich Cerrato said. "I don't wanna be the grinch who stole Christmas from a lot of people who need that support."
"When you have a body that's been elected and is required to follow certain rules, then that is what you have to do," Councilwoman Karen Joseph said.
Despite the mayor's defense of his actions, he says the meeting was effective.
"I'm not offended by it," Cerrato said. "I'm not intimidated by it. Did I learn? Yes."
But some council members aren't convinced the message was heard.
"The responses today certainly didn't give me good hope that we've solved this problem," Mayor Pro Tem Lou De Vita said.
Council unanimously agreed to not expand the authority of the mayor beyond that which is granted by state law until they could "gain more trust in Mayor Cerrato."