The Ronda town charter were among the issues discussed during a two hour board meeting Tuesday night which also included several residents speaking before the large crowd.
Commissioner Sam Foster said the charter needed to be updated and made more precise. He pointed out the handwritten charter is confusing, especially the legality of it.
“We should not have had the mess that occurred this past fall,” said Foster.
Foster and others supported a petition calling for the removal or recall of Mayor Victor Varela this fall. They said they based their petition on a portion of the charter dating to 1920 and governed by 1917 laws, that allowed for the recall power.
This fall, attorneys with the state board of elections said the town of Ronda does not have the authority to recall an elected official.
On Tuesday night, Bob Laney, the town’s lawyer, agreed with the state’s legal advice, saying the town does not have the power to recall an elected official.
During the meeting, Varela and Foster asked Laney to continue to research the charter and its authority. At the end of the meeting, Varela asked him to hold off on researching the charter until they have specific questions.
On Wednesday, Varela said he was going to Raleigh to talk to officials about the charter in the near future.
Varela said the town’s 1920 charter is legal, according to school of government officials. In 1961 the charter, following a general assembly action, allowed for non-partisan simple plurality election and in 1971 the ability of a municipality to recall an elected official was withdrawn. These amendments are included in the original charter, said Varela.
Kevin Reece, an organizer for the petition to recall Varela, said Wilkes County representatives in Raleigh, Sen. Shirley Randleman and Rep. Jeff Elmore are looking into the town’s charter and its ability to recall. Varela said he has also talked with Sen. Randleman about the issue.
Reece said people’s rights were taken away in 1971 when the General Assembly took away the recall capability of municipalities.
“I’m not happy people can’t remove elected officials,’ said Reece.
He said the charter should curtail the power of the board and also allow for a partisan election. Reece also criticized the media, saying they should print both sides, but only print one side.
Foster said there was not a problem with the charter until the mayor was asked to step down. “This (the recall of an elected offical) is still the issue and it needs to be addressed.”
Varela said he received 63 percent of the vote in his first election as mayor and 70 percent in his second race.
“The board has done tremendous things and I have no intention of resigning,” said Varela.
Debra Goldman, a new resident in Ronda, said this was her first town meeting and she was excited to be there.
Ms. Goldman said she has had prior experience on other boards and commended Varela for allowing the public to be so involved in the meeting. She criticized Varela for interrupting residents when they were speaking.
Ms. Goldman, a former Wake County school board member, ran for state audit in 2012 and was defeated.
She resigned as a Wake County school board member earlier this month to become the first executive director for the Derie Cheek Reece (DCR) Foundation, based in Wilkes County.
The DCR, a nonprofit foundation, was started in February 2011 with the goal of reducing the number of strokes especially in young people, to improve stroke outcomes, advocate for stroke victims and their families.
It was created by Reece after his 33 year-old-wife, Derie Cheek Reece, died on May 25, 2010 of a brain hemorrhagic stroke.
Jeff Hoots, a resident on Factory Street, asked the board to place speed bumps on Factory Street because of the number of people exceeding the 25 mile speed limit.
He said he was afraid a child was going to be hurt if something was not done.
Board agreed to get quotes on the cost of placing speed bumps and also to ask for increased law enforcement.