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
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.


Ira Bostic
Concerned Stallings resident and voter





 Posted by at 8:09 am
Jan 302012

Stallings Update
by Paul Frost

The New Year offers an opportunity to provide updates on recent Town of Stallings developments, and offer some projections for 2012.

Observations from 2011:

(1) Stallings Police Department: If I could re-do one thing in my first term as a Stallings Town Council member, I would not pursue the discussion about outsourcing the Stallings Police Department to the extent that I did. As a rookie Council member, I did not anticipate the level of discord and distrust that resulted from that incident. Today, the department has an effective leader in Mike Dummett, who has met and exceeded my expectations. While I will continue to look for ways to keep public safety costs as low as possible, I support giving the Stallings Police Department the resources that they need to carry out their mission.

(2) Planning for the Future: Things go much more smoothly when we plan our work and work our plan. In 2010 and 2011, the Town of Stallings created a comprehensive Capital Improvements Plan and multi-year budget projections with the help of a Finance Committee comprised of citizens and Council members with backgrounds in finance. Our auditors have commended us for being the only town of which they are aware that has its own finance advisory board. As a result of these new financial tools, our budgeting discussions have become much more efficient and straight forward. Rather than grasping at straws during spending discussions, we can now see in real terms the impact that our spending decisions has on future town priorities. Wouldn’t it be nice if Congress did the same thing? Still, we still need to develop better vision for the Town in terms of economic development, infrastructural improvements, parks and recreation and pedestrian connectivity. Citizen ideas and feedback are important as we head into a planning session in mid-February to discuss these items.

(3) Economic Growth: There has been a good deal of discussion about the need for economic growth in Union County in order to reduce our dependence on residential tax dollars so we can invest in needed infrastructure. In order to help us gather ideas for economic development in Stallings, the Town Council has listened to presentations from the Union County Partnership for Progress, the Union County Chamber and others who specialize in this field. I believe Stallings can encourage the development of high-end retail that is in close proximity to our neighborhoods, and develop our industrial zones that house important companies like CEM and AEP. But in the course of recruiting new companies to Stallings, we need to make sure the business fits with the vision and character of the Town. For example, Council recently voted on a zoning request to allow a funeral home to be placed in the same building as an eye doctor, very close to a large neighborhood. The funeral home would include embalming of about 70 bodies per year, along with a limited number of funeral-related meetings. Many residents in the Stevens Mill and Emerald Lakes subdivisions strongly opposed the zoning change. Unfortunately, Councilmen Stokes, Esarove and Steele approved the zoning request at our January 9 meeting. In the future, we need to have a more thoughtful approach to economic development.

Commentary on important items in 2012:

(1) Town Manager Contract Update: On January 23, the majority of Council (Stokes, Esarove, Steele and Weber) voted to extend our Town Manager’s contract for five additional years, with a one-year severance package. While I understand the majority’s desire to retain our Manager Mr. Matthews’ services, this means the taxpayers could foot a $90,000 bill if things don’t go well with the manager between now and 2017. Not only is this a big liability to the taxpayers, the terms of the contract with our manager are significantly better than the contracts with managers in Matthews, Mint Hill, and Indian Trail (all much larger towns). This was not a good example of fiscal responsibility.

In addition, my preference is create a more quantifiable compensation package that rewards the manager’s performance such things as reducing operating expenses and a reduction of time that it takes to complete assignments from the Council. Currently, nothing like that exists in our manager’s employment evaluation. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 2:54 pm