Sunset Beach mayor resigns after council votes to fire town administrator

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SUNSET BEACH, NC (WWAY) — Allegations of personal attacks, personal agendas, prejudices, and discrimination, those are some of the accusations that came out during the Sunset Beach Town Council meeting on Monday night.

It centered around town council going into closed session to discuss firing Town Administrator Susan Parker.

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Mayor Robert Forrester wanted some questions answered about that decision.

“What direction is it going now that you want to change? What direction do you want to go in we’re not going in?” Mayor Forrester first asked councilwoman Jan Harris, who did not respond.

But Mayor Pro Tem Mark Benton did.

“I’ll answer the question, Bob. The town is going in a different direction period. Nothing more we have to say than that. It’s a right to work state, we’re definitely going in a different direction,” said Benton.

It is a meeting that got heated at times. Mayor Forrester then turned to councilman Rich Cerrato.

“Mr. Mayor, I understand what you’re attempting to do and I have no comment,” said  Cerrato.

“And what new direction do you want the town to go in?” Forrester asked Cerrato.

“Mr. Mayor. I understand your scheme and I have no comment,” Cerrato replied.

Council went back and forth, while residents also spoke out, causing Mayor Forrester to ask the crowd to maintain order.

In the end, council voted 3-2 to fire Susan Parker.

“I’m disgusted,” said councilman Charles Nern, one of the only two council members who voted against Parker’s termination.

Nern also said he was going to be in contact with the Council of Government and their ethics committee, because he believes this was discussed beforehand with citizens, which is a violation of closed session.

On Tuesday, Forrester officially turned in his letter of resignation.

“I tried to convince them that they’re making a tremendous mistake. That they were sacrificing the interest of 4,000 plus residents in Sunset Beach for what I consider to be personal animosities, and agendas, and vendettas.”

Many were upset with the decision as they believe Parker was great at her job.

“She is exceptional at what she does and what she does for the town,” Forrester said.

The town finance director Bonnie Bray announced she also plans to retire early, as a result of Parker’s termination.

“Quite frankly, I was shocked the Mayor resigned, considering he was recently re-elected and was aware he would serve the good of the community as well as through the difficult times,” Mark Benton said in a statement to WWAY. “The change in administration was due to a change in direction as we move forward with the new council. There’s no personal animosity towards Ms. Parker at all. A change was necessary.”

WWAY also reached out to council members Rich Cerrato and Jan Harris, we did not hear back.