CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WECT) – Rep. Susi Hamilton (D-New Hanover) is apparently declining to accept the Town Manager's position in Carolina Beach.
In a statement sent Wednesday afternoon, Hamilton says new information changed her intentions of accepting the position and remaining as a member of the NC House of Representatives.
"Both The Town of Carolina Beach and I acted on good faith regarding my ability to serve both the Town and in the NCGA," Hamilton said in the statement. "We did so on information we received from the legislative ethics staff, who advised us based on their knowledge and research that it would be lawful and appropriate and I could do both. My personal ethics would never have allowed the process to move forward at all without clearance from the ethics committee. Based on information received today about an obscure statute specific to town managers of towns with populations greater that 3,000, state law says that I must resign as soon as I accept this position. This changes the nature of my decision. In the past Carolina Beach has experienced considerable political activity. I was comfortable working with the existing Mayor and Council. However, there is an election in November, and elections have consequences. I was OK with this uncertainty when my resignation was not eminent. I will continue to serve in the North Carolina General Assembly and fight hard for my constituents in District 18. I have worked diligently and effectively and will continue to rail against the current majorities efforts to undermine public education. There are many more battles ahead that I intend to fight on behalf of women, children, minorities, the elderly, the disadvantaged, students, teachers, the sick – the list is too long. I must to fight for the best interests of District 18 and all North Carolinians."
According to a representative from the UNC School of Government, Hamilton could not continue to serve in the General Assembly and work as the Town Manager of Carolina Beach.
Hamilton's spokesperson made the announcement before the town of Carolina Beach could send a press release. Mayor Bob Lewis said the timing confused the situation because town leaders were preparing to share the news later in the week.
Mayor Lewis said Wednesday that he asked the town attorney to verify state statutes that prohibit the dual roles.
Frayda Bluestein, a professor of Public Law and Government at UNC Chapel-Hill, says it is the position of the School of Government that Hamilton can not do both jobs. Bluestein points to 160A-147 of the State Constitution, which states, "the office of city manager is hereby declared to be an office that may be held concurrently with other appointive (but not elective) offices pursuant to Article VI, Sec. 9, of the Constitution."
In an emailed statement Tuesday, Hamilton specifically pointed out that she believed she could maintain both jobs.
The statement read in part, ""It is important to note that the North Carolina General Assembly does not require a member to resign in order to accept a full time position, and there are no immediate plans for any change in my elected status."
Hamilton's spokesperson, Tori Jones, says the representative is busy finishing up work this week at the General Assembly and not available for comment.
The hiring process
Lewis said town leaders met with Hamilton individually over the last couple months for interviews so there would not be a conflict with a quorum.
He said council members unanimously agreed that Hamilton was their choice about a month ago, but no official vote was ever taken.
The town sent her an early version of the contract towards the end of June, according to Lewis. He said some changes were made and Hamilton's representative returned a signed contract to the town last Friday.
Lewis said the town clerk contacted him Monday about the agreement, to which he told her to stamp his signature on it.
It wasn't until WECT asked questions about the legality of the hiring process that discussion of a vote came up. The contract cannot be signed without a vote in public, according to state law. Lewis said after consulting with the town attorney, he should have waited to sign the document until town leaders could actually vote on it.
He said he made the decision while he was out of town on business. Lewis said it might have been different if he would have actually been in Carolina Beach at the time.
The plan is to hold a special meeting Friday to approve the contract and announce the new town manager, according to Lewis. As of this hour, no public notice has been given for that special meeting. He said if Hamilton does not take the job, current interim town manager Ed Parvin will continue in his duties until a permanent replacement is found.