SUNSET BEACH, NC (WWAY) — Sunset Beach Police had to remove a town council member from a meeting earlier this week for the second time in less than two months.
Back on February 19, Councilman Rich Cerrato was removed after he said he raised questions over a statement Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Benton sent to WWAY, saying he would act as mayor until November.
In a YouTube video from Monday night, Cerrato can be seen raising questions about dredging.
“I did absolutely nothing, and I encourage everyone to look at the YouTube of the April 1st meeting,” Cerrato said.
In the video, Benton says he is out of order and asks for him to be removed.
“All people have to do is watch the video,” Benton said.
At the meeting, a tax expert from Bolivia explained how dredging could affect property values. Cerrato says council member John Corbett lives on an affected canal, and stands to financially benefit from dredging, creating a conflict of interest.
“When we’ve had Hurricane Florence and a lot of people have been hurt. A lot of roads destroyed, and bridges are destroyed. And to spend $3 million of state tax money for recreational boating, I find questionable,” Cerrato said.
Cerrato and several others have sent emails to the state, citing what they claim is a conflict of interest involving Corbett, and arguing that only around 300 of Sunset Beach’s 3,000 properties will benefit from the dredging.
“I have been accused of being against dredging,” Cerrato said. “Not so.”
“I’ll show a letter he sent to a person in Raleigh, stating that he does not want dredging, it’s a conflict of interest, he feels that we should push off dredging for another year or so,” Benton said.
Benton says the town attorney and the school of government have denied that there is any conflict of interest.
Although they have different beliefs, both he and Cerrato believe they are acting in the best interest of the tax payers.
“I learned with Rich, if you disagree with Rich, he’s no longer your friend. So, I’m fine with that, but the bottom line is I am protecting the people of Sunset Beach, and protecting the taxpayers. They have a right to dredge their property areas,” Benton said.
Benton says he just wants town council meetings in the future to remain civil.
If you live in Sunset Beach, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how you feel about the issue.