Carolina Beach mayor cites budget problems as impetus for town manager’s firing
CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - Carolina Beach Town Manager Lucky Narain was fired during Tuesday night’s town council meeting.
After council emerged from closed session, a motion was made to terminate Narain’s contract. The motion passed by a 4-1 vote. Mayor Pro Tem Tom Bridges was the one who voted against firing Narain.
Narain is the town’s second town manager to be terminated in about a 10-month span.
Narain was hired as the town manager in January and assumed the role on Feb. 25.
According to Mayor Joe Benson, the reason council voted to fire Narain was because he did a poor job on next year’s fiscal budget. The budget was supposed to be presented and adopted Tuesday night.
“We didn’t have a budget. We didn’t know which budget we were looking at, frankly, and it was embarrassing. The principle job of the town manager is to be the budget officer,” Benson said.
“The revenue numbers and the expense numbers were not clear to us because we were looking at different outputs based on cuts made, recommendations and what the departments were proposing to the town manager ... there were some disparities there, so it was difficult for us really to have a sense of, among other things, what can we put back into fund balance, what can we put back into savings,” Benson said.
Benson said the poor presentation in front of citizens at Tuesday night’s meeting was “embarrassing."
“We owe the public a clean picture as to where we intend to put their tax dollars. That was not available last night,” Benson said.
John Piccolo lives in Carolina Beach, and said he’s concerned another town leader is out after just four months.
“I’m assuming they recruit these people, and that just doesn’t look good. It doesn’t fair well. They’re looking like, ‘oh, you went through two already. What’s the problem?’ and I don’t know how to fix it," Piccolo said.
Benson said council is considering hiring outside agencies to help them hire the next town manager. He said for now, he’ll take the blame.
“The presentation that we had the interview process [of Narain], without getting too much into the weeds, was excellent in terms of who we hire. We own it, council, we’re responsible for who we hire, so to the extent that we hired the wrong one, I’ll take the hit on that," he said.
“If it turns out to be, and in my mind it did, the wrong person [hired], than I own it,” Benson said.
Assistant Town Manager Ed Parvin will serve as a interim manager.
Earlier this week, Narian issued a lengthy letter in response to criticisms levied against him by the town’s Police Advisory Committee.
His full letter can be seen here.
Narain responded to his firing in an email to WECT:
Hi, my name is Lucky Narain. Most recently I served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Town of Carolina Beach, North Carolina. As a Town Manager and a public servant, I was dedicated to doing the best I could to benefit the public, manage a staff approximately 120 employees, and oversee a near 25 million dollar budget. Sometimes the vision of those individuals who appoint us into office change. Sometimes political dynamics create riptides. It’s all part of the process and the profession.
There was no failure here. No laws were broken. No deadlines were missed. No policies were violated. The budget was still in process and was on a positive track. Various Council Members told me so and it was clear from the Council meeting a couple of weeks ago that we were extremely close to passing a budget. With the proposed budget no money was allocated to be taken away from the General Fund to pass the budget, as in years prior to my arrival. In fact, the Council was still deciding on very few elements to refine the balanced budget. These elements included, for example, presenting me the exact amounts for employee compensation (COLA/merit percentages) and how much to return into the General Fund.
At issue were political dynamics. Specifically, the dynamics involved in addressing concerns with a police department that has experienced tremendous difficulties in recent years. These were present long before I joined the Town. My short tenure was not enough to make the positive difference I had hoped for. For example, I participated in the comprehensive selection process to fill numerous police officer vacancies. We chose to recruit four superiorly qualified candidates. Unfortunately, from a lesser qualified candidate I experienced harassment, slander, and a negative media campaign that I imagine Town Council was not able to ignore.
Serving on the Town Council is a tremendous responsibility and I have grown fond of the Council. I have come to value and respect their drive, determination, and passion for public service. I applaud them for the work they do and empathize with the pressures they deal with and the riptides they navigate through.
To the extent that I am able to assist the Town of Carolina Beach in the future, I look forward to doing so.
Copyright 2019 WECT. All rights reserved.