Monday, August 12, 2013



Meeting convened at 6 PM with Alderman Taylor being the only absentee.  There was only one agenda item, that being "Discussion of the approved 146-12 easement."  (important to note the word "approved" here).  The meeting was noticed at least on the City's Facebook page on Friday, Aug 2, 2013.  This agenda also appeared on the City website; however, contrary to previous practice, there was not a posting date listed.  Also, it was not published in the online edition of the NB Sun Journal.  My email to the newspaper asking if they received a notice has gone unanswered.    

However, according to the Aug 8 NB Sun Journal article, "Aldermen hold contentious meeting about marina easement",  this meeting was convened for the purpose of someone (board members, public, everyone?) discussing submitting the city's application for a 146-12 easement.  But, we all know that government proceedings and decisions do not rely on the media's interpretations of government documents.   If this easement is truly "approved", why does the agenda item read that the meeting's purpose is for discussion vice announcement of what this approved easement means to the citizens and marina users as well as other particulars about the actual approval?  Particulars such as:  I thought the NCGA had to approve a 146-12 easement?  Did that already happen? 

According to the Sun Journal article, a portion of the reporting developed from interviews with city officials and overheard discussions held in the hallway outside the meeting room and after the actual BOA meeting.  It noted that Alderman Bucher disagrees with both Alderman Outlaw and Mayor Bettis that an actual vote on this matter was taken.  If the easement was approved, how could that be when the local aldermen aren't even certain if they voted the application to be moved along to the NCGA?  Or, if Alderman Bucher is correct that there was not a vote, yet this 146-12 easement is indeed approved, is it now subject to being rescinded?   Why is it acceptable or appropriate for Mayor Bettis and Aldermen Outlaw and Bucher to gnash teeth, outside of the public meeting yet in the midst of some of the public and at least one reporter, over whether a legal vote approving either an application for the easement or the easement itself was taken during a prior City of New Bern board meeting?       

An email I obtained from a city official in February 2013 (when I was seeking info about how the BOA approval for the $30K in total for the City Manager's bonus came to be during a planning retreat) which included the board members' discussion of subject easement and its resulting decisions from the Saturday morning Feb 16, 2013 Board Retreat chronicles the proceedings in these ways:  

(a)  A Feb 18, 2013 email from City Manager Epperson to the Mayor and Board members forwarded Mr. Epperson's notes on the Retreat's proceedings regarding this subject and reads,  

To clarify what the City can and can't do that permits it to apply for this easement now, and to try to validate Mayor Bettis' claim within the last paragraph of the same Sun Journal article that "the city already has the authority to apply for a G.S. 146-12 easement because it was voted on...", may end up requiring a legal opinion on what the meaning of the word "and" is.  I wonder if this will require another expenditure of taxpayer money on yet another out-of-town attorney to render the opinion? 

  • "Discuss application for 146-12 waterfront easement -
  • The BOA discussed the history of the waterfront development directly behind the Double Tree Hotel and the associated easements that have been issued to the marina owner.  There was further discussion regarding concerns over the access to our waterfront and concerns over the current financial status of the marina ownership.  Several members of the BOA expressed concerns over the appropriateness of previous easements being issued by the NC Department of Real Estate. Direction was given to bring forth a future resolution authorizing the Mayor to sign application for a 146-12 easement on behalf of the City of New Bern.  Further direction was given to begin to evaluate the feasibility of the City purchasing the marina."  (Note:  the underline was done by the City Mgr). 

(b)  A Feb 19, 2013 email from Alderman Bengel to City Manager Epperson forwarding her notes about the Retreat reads:
"2. Discussion on waterfront easement
Directed mr epperson to look at purchase of marina and
applying for 146 -12"

The official BOA minutes of Feb 16, 2013 read: 

(c)  Discuss application for 146-12 waterfront easement
The waterfront easement was discussed. The Board directed Mr. Epperson to look at purchasing the marina and applying for a 146-12 easement."
I remind the readers that compiling the minutes for the Feb 16Retreat required lengthy, heated Board discussion during two regular BOA meetings (2-26-13 and 3-26-13) and a March 6, 2013 special called BOA session, wherein the City Attorney delivered a brief on what kind of Board member information constitutes minutes (notes, memory recollections, and/or video & audio recordings) and legal public meeting noticing.  Reason being is a similar disagreement arose over whether or not an official vote was taken to approve a $10,000 bonus for each of 3 years for City Manager Epperson.  Recall that the contentious discussions surrounding this previous Board member-and-citizen-contested agenda item also rested on the answer of "who approved what when, if at all?".    Despite all of those discussions, it still took an amended version of the minutes (and an extra 20 minutes to produce the appropriate wording) regarding that bonus vote to receive final Board approval at the March 26, 2013 board meeting.            

It's a shame that there is no City3TV video of this 2013 BOA Retreat, no professionally trained city clerk present that typically records the proceedings that will be voted into official minutes, was no live press coverage and that the only citizen who showed up (expressly to learn what the Board decided about the 146-12 easement, marina purchase and special appropriations' funding) was regular citizen Mr. Tony Bonnici who is presently a candidate for Ward 1 alderman.  He is also one of the original petitioners with the New Bern AWARE group (Against Water Access Right Encroachment) that hired now-Mayor Lee Bettis as their attorney in 2007.  The group's intent was to gain public access to the public trust waters that lie in the City.  It felt that would be accomplished by petitioning that year's Board of Aldermen to have the City file for an easement in the City's name; it did so at the Nov 27, 2007 BOA meeting.  Mr. Bonnici has kept up with and active in this issue unwaveringly ever since.  Unfortunately, to attend this Retreat, he had to find a Tryon Place NC History Center security guard to unlock doors and escort him to the upstairs meeting room where this open, legally noticed, public meeting convened.  If it had been recorded, it would have quickly cleared up two issues that have served to agitate the public and the taxpayers. (There is City3TV video posted for all other BOA meetings beginning with 1st live broadcast Apr 5, 2011, with one exception being the April 21, 2011 special town hall held at the downtown NB Library to discuss the city's intervention of the Duke Progress Merger and its estimated costs.  There is also video of a couple of March 2011 meetings pulled from other sources),  Word to the wise is to check the City website daily for the BOA agenda.

It often times is helpful for citizens to consult the city website under the Development Services Department tab and read the agendas for the other city boards, attend any of their meetings or watch them live, or view City3TV videos regarding issues they find will affect them.   Many of the issues that directly affect citizens, such as issuance of certificates of appropriateness (COAs) and zoning rulings originate during these boards' deliberations.  One of these boards' duties is to make recommendations to the Board of Aldermen prior to the aldermen voting.  Sometimes a solution or answers can be found by contacting overseeing staff members for these boards.  According to a source familiar with issues involving the marina, that advice may have helped in this instance 

The purpose of this meeting was not adjudicated due to members of the gallery disrupting the Board proceedings. Perhaps if the agenda had read, "Board discussion of submitting an application for the approval of a 146-12 easement", the gallery members would not have attended with the preconceived notion that their city government had enacted another done deal that affected an important aspect of their life or with expectations that they would allowed to voice their opinions as well as ask questions, and the meeting would have proceeded with proper decorum and could have been concluded?  Although I do not condone disruption of public meetings, many in the audience live on their boats at the marina and had true concerns for their safety and the environment that their domicile was located within.   For even more info on what transpired after the meeting, please read the NB Sun Journal newspaper article previously mentioned in this report.

Rhonda Taylor
CCTA Watchdog Reporter for NB Bd of Aldermen

Ward 6 

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