CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WWAY) -- Rep. Susi Hamilton (D-18th District) says she will keep her seat in the North Carolina House of Representatives after issues arose about her becoming Carolina Beach Town Manager.
After announcing last night that she had accepted the job and would continue to serve in the legislature, town leaders learned today that North Carolina General Statute 160A precludes town managers from holding elected office.
"Both The Town of Carolina Beach and I acted on good faith regarding my ability to serve both the Town and in the NCGA," Hamilton said in a statement. "We did so on information we received from the legislative ethics staff, who advised us based on their knowledge and research that it would be lawful and appropriate and I could do both. My personal ethics would never have allowed the process to move forward at all without clearance from the ethics committee."
In her statement Hamilton said learning of the "obscure statute" that would require her to choose between the two jobs changes everything.
"In the past Carolina Beach has experienced considerable political activity," Hamilton said. "I was comfortable working with the existing Mayor and Council. However, there is an election in November, and elections have consequences. I was OK with this uncertainty when my resignation was not eminent (sic). I will continue to serve in the North Carolina General Assembly and fight hard for my constituents in District 18."
After learning of the law this morning, Carolina Beach Mayor Bob Lewis said he wanted Hamilton's decision by the end of the day. The decision he got was not the one he wanted.
"I'm a little disappointed," Lewis said. "No. 1, we didn't make the first announcement, and we didn't really plan for that announcement to be made until Friday after we voted in the open session to confirm the contract agreement and the terms of that. We were going to have a public relations opportunity to introduce Susi Hamilton, and her publicist decided to get it out there quicker, and she made that announcement not really knowing the full extent of the law."
This afternoon Hamilton's publicist Tori Jones asked us to "give (Hamilton) some space" as she makes this "life-changing decision for her and her constituents."
Carolina Beach leaders say they were caught off guard when Jones released the statement about Hamilton's new job. Jones said she e-mailed the media shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday because she believed the town was going to release its announcement at the same time. An e-mail from the town's social media director soon followed.
Lewis said they have offered Hamilton the job, but a formal, public vote would not come until a meeting Friday. He said Hamilton would have made between $88,000 and $98,000, which Lewis said is less than former Town Manager Tim Owen.
Hamilton is in her second term representing a district that runs from downtown Wilmington across northern Brunswick County.