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City Clerk: Petition organizers should have asked for help

READ MORE: City Clerk: Petition organizers should have asked for help
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- The City of Wilmington has rejected a the petition against a taxpayer funded ballpark. Officials say there was not a required affidavit with the thousands of signatures.

"To just dismiss 4,000 people that signed our petition, just with the wave of a hand, it's just a huge slap in the face," petition organizer Ben McCoy said.

All the work to get a petition signed against a taxpayer funded ballpark may have been for naught.Tuesday night Wilmington City Council said McCoy and Josh Fulton's petition was invalid because they did not have a required affidavit along with questions about some of the signatures.

McCoy and Fulton say they tried to talk with city officials about the process. Adding that they went to City Attorney Bill Wolak and were told to seek other legal counsel. City Officials say they may have asked the wrong questions to the wrong people.

"If they would have come in and said, 'Ms. Sidbury, you know we're new at this, do you have a moment? Can you take a look at this and let us know maybe if we're missing something?' It's called pulling out the rules and putting it side by side, and it jumps right out at you," City Clerk Penelope Spicer-Sidbury said.

Although the exact language of that petition will not be on the November ballot, the City Clerk says the people will be heard, as City Council is looking at a bond referendum to fund the baseball stadium.

"The people do want to be heard, and so I think that's why they (City Council) are going to go there," Spicer-Sidbury said. "They're going to have a special meeting on the 24th. Normally last night would have been the last meeting for the month of July, but they're willing to do that, they're willing to do the extra work."

Fulton wants to see how things play out.

"I think we're going to wait and see how it turns out on the November ballot, and then if the city chooses to pursue it through another method, then we could take it to court," he said.

Wilmington City Council will hold a special meeting to discuss the baseball bond referendum on July 24, followed by an August 7 public hearing.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.

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B&J

Your claim of no assistance from the City Attorney is invalid. By your own admission you were advised to seek outside legal opinion and receive professional assistance. Had you followed that advice you wouldn't have wasted yours and others time. It's been posted that hard headed-ness prevails within you both. Others, wait, most think your just cheap. Either way you have totally ruined your credibility and you should just fade back into the wood work. I agree with the Mayors comment that what you two were doing was a big deal. You were trying to alter the governing power of the elected officials of a great American City. The very least you could have done was get it right!!

I just want to make it clear

I just want to make it clear that I did go to Ms. Spicer-Sidbury and asked not only for the city's interpretation of the wording of our ordinance, but also to see if there was anything else we could do to meet the requirements of the city regarding the petitions.

I was flatly told to speak to Mr. Wolak and was given no advice.

Mr. Wolak then told me, and Ben, and anyone else interested in this thing to seek legal council without conferring his interpretation of the wording of the ordinance, thoughts on the interlocal agreement regarding legion, and the formatting of the petition.

The assertion that we didn't contact her, or we did and didn't ask for the right thing, is flat out wrong.

"To just dismiss 4,000 people.....

" that signed our petition, just with the wave of a hand, it's just a huge slap in the face," petition organizer Ben McCoy said.
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especially when the the dismisser is a non-legally trained, low level clerk, who re-interprets the law on the spot ("It's called pulling out the rules and putting it side by side, and it jumps right out at you," City Clerk Spicer-Sidbury said. Speak for yourself there Spicer-Sidbury legal NOVICE).

). the inmates are truly running this asylum called Wilmington. If the people aren't incensed by now, they deserve the type of government they've got...

City Clerks

I would hardly say that a City (Municipal) Clerk is “a non-legally trained, low level clerk”.

After looking up what is required of a City Clerk online, I found that:

City Clerks take courses in applied economics, business management, government and municipal law. They must be able to track the legislative process and inform the community of proposed legislation and report its final approval. They must coordinate and schedule public hearings and record hearing procedures for permanent record.

The City Clerk also provides a link between government and community. They deal with agencies of government at other levels, and they must have excellent people skills and be able to manage time and workloads efficiently.

The City Clerk handles mass communications and records enormous amounts of information on computer. They are responsible for all documents and government information resources concerning the community, and must oversee the storing of this information.

City Clerks become certified by taking courses approved by the International Institute of Municipal Clerks. Most states require 100 to 105 hours of training.

This certainly doesn’t make a City Clerk sound “non-legally trained” and “low level” to me.

How do we or those who signed

Knew what they were signing without affidavits?

City Clerk is a LIAR

As a co-organizer with this petition process, let me say for the record, the city clerk is full of it. She was one of the first ones we went to in the beginning asking for help, and there was none for her to give. She told us that we should contact city attorney Bill Wolak for any help, which we did, and who also gave us the cold shoulder. In fact, Wolak's response was the following:

Mr. McCoy:

The petition process set forth in the Wilmington City Charter is for citizen initiative. As the City Attorney I and my staff represent the City of Wilmington, therefore, it would be inappropriate for either me or any member of my staff to become involved with your petition process.

Sincerely,

W. E. Wolak

So on tonight's news, you have the city clerk telling everybody that all we had to do is come to her and she would have graciously bestowed assistance upon us - yet you have email records showing that according to the city attorney it would be "inappropriate" for them to get involved.

The city charter is extremely ambiguous as to what is required for a successful petition. No one can accuse us of not doing our homework - the most official affidavit one could hope for is the director of the county board of elections signing off on the petition and declaring it true and valid - which he did.

The city council is employing their own creative interpretation of the affidavit clause to protect their ambition and agenda. If we had gotten an affidavit from all who took petitions to be signed, you can rest assured there would have been some other formality they would have declared insufficient.

We should have never had to conduct this process. The city council should abide by their sworn duty to represent those they serve, and conform to the will of the people. There is no doubt anywhere that people do not want to pay for this. However, they are abandoning their offices and integrity to march on loyally to the Mandalay tune.

When is the local media going to actually find out why? What is in it for each council member on a personal level?

so you were given the classic bureacratic run-around by

no-nothing clerks.

My one attempt at finding out something about my city was met with almost hostile indifference when I decided to drop into the Wilmington city building one day and ask around. I wanted to find out if Wilmington had any community gardens (which we do, I eventually found out by extensive web research). The city staff knew nothing and cared even less, despite my mentioning the fact that Leland has a city-sponsored and thriving community garden which had recently gotten press in the Star News. No one knew anything or had any intention of lifting a finger to find out; I quickly got in to see the city managers secretary and thought, "wow. what a great city, where someone off the street can go in an ask a question of the most knowledgable city leaders just like that. The city managers secretary yelled over to him "do you know anything about a community garden?" He nodded no and that was as much attention as that issue was going to get. I was on my own.

liar

If you were so hell bent on getting this petiton done correctly.You would have continue to try and get the right answer if you were not satisfied.What is in it for you are you planning on running for some public office.When you jump in the water full of sharks always look for a dolphin???????To the city clerk and the rest keep up the good work.

If either of these guys had

If either of these guys had any plans to run for public office they can forget it now, they are just two wanna-be politicians, even Brian Berger could have done a better a job!!!

Compromises

Has not City enabled this process,too much.
Even so,either way Mayor said on TV it will go to a vote.
So,let the facts,proposals,not rhetoric surface.
People want this,Council and Mayor know it,just awaiting validations.

Smells Like Politics

Okay the City Clerk answers to the City Manager. The City Manager answers to the Mayor and City Council. It is quite apparent City Buffoons want the stadium at our expense and do not care what dirty politic they have to do to get it. These matters will not be forgotten on election day and City Council say goodbye!

That makes no sense, Council

That makes no sense, Council approved putting it on ballot last night, so voters decide. Clerk reports to Council, not city manager.

In February

Ben and Johua asked the City attorney,it is public record,so why are they surprised now?

So, those who say that this

So, those who say that this is just the city playing politics and trying to ram through the ballpark, I have a question for you.

Do you think that the petition process was followed? If it wasn't, should the city clerk turn a blind eye and not do her job?

yes, it was followed

when 4000 signatures are gathered, the spirit of the process is followed, even if not all the bureaucratic i's were dotted and t's crossed (and if you had any legal training, you'd understand what I'm saying here). In a democratic process, you do not "dismiss" a 4,000 signature containing petition with some on-the-spot legalese invention, especially by demonstrating questionable understanding of the statute language!

In a process where a tyrant is involved (Louis XIV for example), people could protest all they wanted, but there was no legal recourse because the king had the courts all stacked with his people and there was no relief to the population from years and years of tyranny. Low level court clerks rejected all appeals for justice with similarly on-the-spot, made up jargonistic, legalese argunents to sincere attempts from citizens at redressing the many injustices of the day. The situation eventually resulted in something called the "french revolution", which quickly expanded over all of Europe in what could be considered the first "Arab spring", lead by Napoleon.

If that's your job lady, you need to read a few book on ethics as part of your "legal training"!