Sep 042015
 

Where it all started:Audit reveals (Stallings) councilman owes $20K in back insurance payments

 Posted by at 2:22 pm
Jul 022013
 

By Kathryn Burcham
STALLINGS, N.C. —
Town leaders in Stallings are demanding answers after an audit revealed a councilman owed $20,000 in back insurance payments.

Officials told Channel 9 Councilman Harry Stokes has not paid his health insurance payments to the town for 15 straight months.

Council members said the error was discovered during an audit by the Local Government Commission, and now Mayor Lynda Paxton is questioning why finance staff inside Stallings Town Hall failed to notice the missing payments for so long.

In an email to council members and staff sent last week, Paxton said the missing money “raised questions about possible impropriety,” and suggested the town change its current policy allowing elected officials to purchase the same health insurance as town employees.

Councilman Wyatt Dunn told Eyewitness News he is concerned about why the missing funds were never noticed.

“I was shocked. $20,000 is a lot of money. We just wanted some answers on how it came about,” Dunn said.

Stokes’ colleagues are also questioning why he purchased health and dental insurance for his family from the town in the first place, as Stokes owns his own insurance company in Monroe.

Stokes refused an on-camera interview, but agreed to answer a list of written questions.

In reference to why he bought coverage from the town, Stokes wrote, “It was offered to all council members as a benefit paid in full by the Council. The benefits and price were a better option than I currently had at the time. I was not the broker or the agent in procuring that coverage for the town, and the coverage was in place before I came into office.”

Stokes also called the unpaid bill an honest mistake, explaining, “Unfortunately I did not realize that my automatic bank draft that I believed was paying the insurance was actually being applied to my car payments and I was making double payments on the car and did not realize it. I have offered the town attorney information to confirm this,” Stokes wrote.

Stokes said he will repay the money.

 

Read more:Audit reveals councilman owes $20K in back insurance payments – WSOC-TV

 Posted by at 10:11 am
Mar 092013
 

Is Incumbent Gerrymandering Alive And Well in Stallings, NC?

On Feb. 11th and 25th the subject of “voting districts” was on the agenda for Stallings council meetings. For those who aren’t familiar with the serious nature of the subject it would be worthwhile to listen to the audio of the meetings by going to the Town of Stallings website and referring to the archived minutes and agendas for the Feb. 11th and 25th meetings.

Harry Stokes, Shawna Steele, Fred Weber and Reed Esarove are adamantly opposed to rebalancing the six voting districts, (actually residency districts) before the November 2013 elections. Stallings has not balanced voting districts since 2001, even though tremendous growth from annexations, new developments and population increases has changed to the point where our voting districts are seriously out of balance by 129%.

It was amazing to hear Steele and Esarove’s comments, which included words such as “inappropriate”, “gerrymandering”, “Chicago style politics”, and fear of the perception that council would be accused of trying to influence who is elected.

There is a term for what the majority on Stallings town council is trying to cram down Stallings citizen’s throats. It is called “incumbent gerrymandering.” Incumbent gerrymandering is most evident in districts 1 and 2, because reduced electoral competition produces “safe” seats for pre-selected individuals. It also reduces voter turnout by diminishing the chance that an individual solitary vote can change the outcome of an election. Gerrymandering in districts I and 2 reduces the chances for a newcomer in either of those districts to be elected because it increases campaign costs by making it harder to build name recognition across districts that wander far and wide over an area seven miles long. This gives incumbents Stokes and Esarove an even bigger advantage, and restricts opportunities for other citizens to become involved in the electoral process.

To ensure that no further action on changes in district boundaries would take place this year Fred Weber succeeded in getting his motion passed to table discussions on district rebalancing until after the November elections. Weber brags about being “independent” and not influenced by others on how he votes. It is interesting to note that neither Weber nor Steele, to my knowledge, ever voted on any motion in opposition to Stokes and Esarove. The outcome is always 4 to 2, with Dunn and Frost in the minority.

Harry Stoke and Reed Esarove helped Steele and Weber get elected. It appears those favors are now being returned. Surprisingly Stokes offered financial assistance to both Weber, (my opponent) and me, suggesting an attempt to buy influence no matter who won. I refused his offer to avoid any future obligation. Since Weber and Steele were seated on council many controversial and expensive changes have been made, such as the generous contract extension for the town manager, firing and replacing the police chief, and use of patrol cars for long commutes by town policemen living outside the area. All these items involve increased expense to taxpayers.

It is an insult to the intelligence of the Stallings electorate to ignore obvious malapportionment in residency districts, which is clearly spelled out in the town charter, as well as NC General Statutes. The brazen attempt to ignore discrepancies in district population balance makes one wonder who or what is behind such an agenda.

I firmly believe it is time for a referendum to allow Stallings residents to have input in the manner for structuring voting districts, and whether or not we have at-large seats on council. Since Stallings has an unusual geographic makeup it may be a good idea to consider dividing the town into 4 voting districts, with two at- large seats to compose the six member council. A hybrid system such as this would legally require rebalancing after every US Census, while our present residency districts legally do not have to meet state and federal statutes.

Stallings citizens need to get actively involved, demand objective, precise criteria to which any district map must comply in order to eliminate “incumbent gerrymandering now, as well as in future elections.

Stallings will be electing a mayor and four council members in November, 2013. Candidates will begin filing for office from July 5th to July 13th, 2013. If we are going to do anything to get more effective, honest, transparent representation time is running short.

Sincerely,

Ira Bostic
Concerned Stallings resident and voter

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 8:09 am
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