BELVILLE, NC (WWAY) — Clandestine plans and midnight oaths. It’s not the actions of a secret society but of the board of the water and sewer provider in northern Brunswick County.
H2Go commissioners Jeff Gerken and Trudy Trombley sent an email at 8 p.m. Sunday calling for an emergency meeting this morning. Hours later, at 12:10 a.m., newly elected Bill Beer took his oath of office from a notary public who works for the town of Leland, Gerken said, and officially became part of the H2Go board.
Only Gerken, Trombley and Beer, all of whom oppose building a reverse osmosis plant and transferring H2Go’s assets to the Town of Belville, were at this morning’s emergency meeting. The three members represented a quorum, though, and unanimously passed several resolutions. Now all H2Go employees are to comply with the temporary restraining order the Town of Leland got last week. H2Go will terminate its legal representation by Ward and Smith. Lastly, all media inquires are to go through Gerken from now on, even though H2Go has a full-time spokesman and is paying WaterPIO to help with communications.
The moves are the latest salvos in the battle over the future of H2Go, which took a major turn last Tuesday when outgoing board member Carl Antos, who lost by just a handful of votes to Beer in last month’s election, proposed conveying H2Go’s assets to Belville. Antos and fellow incumbents Ron Jenkins and Bill Browning, supported the plan, which had not been announced before Antos presented it during the meeting. The three men all support building a RO plant.
“What we’re hoping comes as a result of this would be the clawing back of any assets that were transferred and a greater degree of transparency from H2Go regarding their operations,” Gerken said.
Beer’s swearing in just minutes after midnight did raise some questions marks among folks who attended the emergency meeting. However, Gerken says there is nothing wrong with the timing according to North Carolina General Statute 130A-50, section E.
“The elected members of the board shall take the oath of office on the first Monday in December, following their election and shall serve for the term elected and until their successors are elected and qualify,” Gerken said.
Rodney McCoy, a pro-RO candidate who also won a seat on the board last month, was not sworn in and was not aware of Beer swearing in until hours after the meeting.
When asked about the other commissioners, Gerken informed those present that the other members of the board were notified of the meeting by Leland Police officers the night before.
“Their decision not to attend is up to them,” Gerken said.
Belville Mayor Mike Allen told the three members of the board who did attend he was not thrilled about this meeting.
“I respectfully ask once the meeting is adjourned, that ya’ll do leave town property,” Allen told the trio. “In my personal opinion, I think this meeting is held illegally, according to the open meeting laws in the state of North Carolina.”
Gerken said the question of whether they are on Belville property in up in the air for the time being.
“We believe that transfer to be illegal, and then if it is in fact an illegal transfer, then we’re not on his property or the Town of Belville’s property,” Gerken said.
Two Leland Police officers were at the meeting. According to Gerken, it was necessary to have them there as a result of some posts on social media directed toward him and Trombley.
“There has been a lot of discussion on various social media that has escalated to the point where we thought that it might be appropriate to have the police here to assure this meeting was conducted in order,” Gerken said.
He would not tell reporters what these posts detailed.