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Spring Lake board to discuss voting authority of mayor


SPRING LAKE - The Spring Lake Board of Aldermen is scheduled to discuss the voting authority of the mayor during its work session Monday night.

The board meets at 6 p.m. in the Grady Howard conference room at town hall.  

The discussion regarding the mayor’s voting authority cites N.C.G.S. 160A-69, which states: “The mayor shall preside at all council meetings, but shall have the right to vote only when there are equal numbers of votes in the affirmative and in the negative. In a city where the mayor is elected by the council from among its membership, and the city charter makes no provision as to the right of the mayor to vote, he shall have the right to vote as a council member on all matters before the council, but shall have no right to break a tie vote in which he participated.” 

Spring Lake residents elect the mayor separately from the Board of Aldermen. The Board of Aldermen vote to select the mayor pro tem from among the board members. Traditionally, the highest vote-getter in the general election has been chosen to serve as mayor pro tem.

Under the Spring Lake code of ordinances, the mayor is only allowed to vote when there is a tie. 

If an amendment to the town charter were to proceed, the mayor would no longer be able to break a tie vote nor would there be a provision to break that tie, according to Melissa Pereria, the town clerk.

Mayors are elected by the voters in almost all municipalities in the state. There are few exceptions. According to the UNC School of Government, 518 of 553 municipalities select their mayor by election; 33 are selected by and from the governing board; and in two instances, the mayor is a board member who receives the most votes. 

The board on Monday could discuss changing the town charter to allow the mayor to run in the same election as the Board of Aldermen and then have that position selected “by the board from among its membership,” according to Pereria.

Frayda Bluestein, a professor of public law and government at the UNC School of Government, said there are some structural things a board can change under N.C.G.S. 160A-101-111.  

The procedures to give the mayor a vote in all matters are outlined on the UNC School of Government website and include the town adopting a resolution of intent, holding a public hearing and adopting an ordinance if the public agrees. A citywide vote would be needed before adopting the proposed change in the case of a referendum petition.

Kristina Wilson, an assistant professor of public law and government at the UNC School of Government, said “... in the absence of any other measure in the charter, in the case of a tie, the motion would fail.”

Rita Perry, a longtime Spring Lake resident, wrote an email to the Board of Aldermen on Thursday citing excerpts from the UNC School of Government textbook on county and city governing boards that outline the common practices for the role of mayor in North Carolina. 

Perry underlined the line, “with a limited number of exceptions, their powers consist of presiding at governing board meetings, voting to break ties at those meetings (at no other time can they be tie-breakers), and signing documents on behalf of the city.” 

Among the concerns that she cited in her email were that voters had selected the mayor with the understanding that the mayor did not have a vote other than to break a tie.  

“Altering the charter to allow the mayor to vote on agenda items devalues the citizens' voices that elected the mayor to preside over the town as designated in the charter,” Perry wrote. 

She also expressed concern about the inability to break a tie with an even number of votes. Making the mayor a voting member would result in six votes. 

“Under Robert’s Rules of Order, it takes a majority of votes cast (more than half) to pass a motion. Abstentions are not counted. As such, any and all motions voted upon resulting in a tie would mean that the motions are not approved, and no action can be taken, as they are tied votes. If the motions fail, changing the current charter regarding this matter would be counterproductive in taking actions needed to govern the town,” Perry said. 

The board also is expected to discuss bringing the town stormwater program into compliance with its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit after the wastewater treatment plant sustained heavy flood damage resulting in the town losing all paper and digital records related to the stormwater program.  

A closed session citing personnel is also on the agenda.   

Jami McLaughlin covers Spring Lake for CityView TODAY. She can be reached at  jmclaughlin@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com

Spring Lake, Board of Aldermen, mayor, voting, tie-breaker