New commissioner appointment draws concern from some commissioners

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FAIRMONT — In a special-called meeting Tuesday that lasted less than 10 minutes, a sitting commissioner both resigned and nominated someone to fill his seat when he becomes mayor in December.

Fairmont Commissioner and Mayor-Elect Charles Kemp tendered his resignation effective Dec. 21 when he will be sworn in as mayor. He then nominated the appointment of Jan Tedder-Rogers to replace him on the same day he and others are sworn in. Rogers is a “lifelong resident of Fairmont” and serves as general manager of Lumberton ABC store, according to information from Kemp. She will finish the remainder of his term which ends in 2023.

The nomination was made official through a tiebreaker vote cast by Mayor Charles Townsend. Commissioners voting in favor of the nomination were Heather Seibles, Charles Kemp and Mayor Pro Tem J.J. McCree. Commissioners in opposition were Felecia McLean, Monte McCallum and Terry Evans.

“As I stated, I reject that motion,” Commissioner Terry Evans said.

“We are putting the cart before the horse,” he added. “If he’s gonna resign, he needs to resign right now, not the 21st.”

Evans said a gentleman’s agreement existed in which board members agreed to wait for new members to take their seats on the board and take part in the decision making process of appointing a new commissioner. Commissioner Monte McCallum agreed.

Fairmont attorney Jessica Scott said the commissioners could choose to honor a gentlemen’s agreement or vote on the nomination.

“However the board wants to move forward, it’s up to the board,” Scott said.

McCallum called the action of moving the nomination up ahead of the December swearing-in date “unethical and almost downright crooked.”

“You’ve got here board members that don’t have a say in this,” McCallum said, referring to commissioners-elect Melvin Ellison and Clarence McNeill, who sat in the audience.

“It will come back to bite you though,” McCallum added.

After the meeting, Commissioner-Elect Clarence McNeill described the meeting as “interesting.”

“I think it’s unethical myself,” Commissioner-Elect Melvin Ellison told The Robesonian following the meeting.

According to Section 3.3 of the town’s charter, “In the event a vacancy occurs in the office of mayor or commissioner, the board of commissioners shall by majority vote appoint some qualified person to fill the same for the remainder of the unexpired term.”

Town officials including Kemp said that material from the UNC School of Government was consulted before the motion was made.

Kemp told The Robesonian after the meeting that he consulted an article written by David Lawrence, a professor at UNC SOG, that covered open meetings laws and appointing members ahead of time before making his decision.

Kemp planned to tender a resignation at the Nov. 16 meeting, but waited until the election was certified by the N.C. State Board of Elections, he said.

The commissioner said he wanted to get the action over with during the meeting.

“I wanted to have a say so in who replaced me in my seat,” he told The Robesonian after the meeting.

Kemp said he was satisfied with his decision and “prepared to move on.”

Reach Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]

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