05/11/14 — ABC appointment sparks dispute

View Archive

ABC appointment sparks dispute

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 11, 2014 1:50 AM


An appointment to the Wayne County ABC Board that led to questions about the appointment process Tuesday left Wayne County Commissioner Ray Mayo bristling -- and fellow Commissioner Ed Cromartie explaining that he simply had questions about the process.

The exchange started when Mayo, chairman of the board's Appointments Committee, made a motion to appoint Efton Sager to the ABC Board.

Sager, a Republican, is a former commissioner and state legislator.

Commissioner John Bell, a Democrat, who also serves on the Appointments Committee, amended the motion to instead re-appoint Joe Sawyer.

Bell and Cromartie, board vice chairman and a Democrat, voted for Sawyer. The four Republicans on the board, Mayo, Bill Pate, the third member of the Appointments Committee, Chairman Wayne Aycock and Joe Daughtery, voted no.

Mayo, Pate, Aycock and Daughtery voted for Sager. Bell and Cromartie voted no.

Prior to the vote, Cromartie said he would like some clarification on the process since the committee meets a half hour before the commissioners.

He suggested that the board look at changing the time so that commissioners would know more about whom they were voting on.

Cromartie said that he understands there are times when people are asked to remain on a committee.

"We summarily come up here and vote on them after the three members, I guess, have studied it a half hour earlier before our (agenda) briefing," he said. "So it doesn't seem to me to lend enough time to understand who is going to be appointed to the boards and give them a chance to see if they want to remain on the board and to see if the committees they are serving with have requested that they remain.

"So I think this process needs to be looked at a little bit because I am not sure I have ever truly understood how the process worked, and I question whether or not if it is absolutely fair to everyone."

Cromartie's comments drew a swift and angry rebuke from Mayo, who said a lot of time and effort go into the process.

"I am offended when somebody says that this appointment committee seems to be insignificant because we put a lot of time into it," he said.

Mayo said that as committee chairman he spends at least two to three hours a week looking over and trying to get people "right" for the boards.

"If a board like the ABC Board does not recommend anyone to us, this appointment committee is responsible," Mayo said. "Anyone who puts in an application online for instance like the ABC Board, anyone can go, and look at that application. Every one of us commissioners can go online at the website and see everyone who has put in an application.

"This is a thankless position. Everybody knows that. This appointment committee is putting in a lot of time. Anyone who would like to volunteer to take it, you need to come and do it because it is the very best that we can do. It is not based on party or anything else. What it is based on is if a person is qualified and who steps up and says, 'I would like to serve on that committee.' The ABC Board has made no recommendation to us at all."

However, the committee does not always follow those recommendation.

In January 2013, commissioners split along party lines on re-appointing Glenn Odom, a Democrat, to the ABC Board despite a letter of recommendation from Mike Myrick, general manager of the ABC Board, that Odom be re-appointed.

Instead, Mayo made a motion to appoint Ervin Watts, a former Republican candidate for commissioner. Mayo and Pate recommended him, while Bell said he preferred Odom.

At that time, Mayo did say why he and Pate chose not to honor Myrick's request.

Tuesday Mayo said that Bell and Pate had put in a lot of time as well.

The appointment process is not perfect, but "it is the best we have," Mayo said.

Pate and Cromartie tried to speak at the same time, but Aycock recognized Pate.

"For those who don't understand how this board works, we start at 7 in the morning," Pate said. "It is posted. It is an open meeting. Anyone can come, listen and watch the proceedings.

"You can get up a little bit earlier, come on in and understand what is going on. I see him (Sager) as a leader, a strong person, and I will not change my mind on that."

Cromartie said he was not questioning anyone's integrity or the amount of work they put in.

"I hear that you put in three hours prior to the meeting, then it surely seems like you have put in an excellent amount of time," Cromartie said. "Therefore it lends to how much decision-making has been done before you get to the meeting that happens in the morning.

"I only ask for more transparency, not to question anyone's integrity. I am not doubting that you do this with great sincerity. I did not mention (political) party as far who gets on there. But it might be worth asking that question. Are we keeping all of the boards balanced as to party and race? Let's just make sure that we are transparent in all of these things."

Also, Cromartie said his comments did not call into question the qualification of those appointed. He said that he just wanted to ensure that those who have served and would like to continue to do so have "ample opportunity."

Daughtery ended the discussion by calling for the vote.