The City of Blue Ridge started the New Year with a very contentious workshop and meeting. Former city council member, Michael Eaton, in an interesting turn of events participated as a member of the council. Newly elected council members Angie Arp and Bruce Pack were not able to participate as legal council members because they had not been sworn into office. They would be sworn in at the official monthly meeting that night. This did not stop Angie Arp from voicing her opinion on several of the matters being addressed at the workshop.
Council member Arp, after being sworn in, wasted no time at the city council meeting challenging the Mayor’s authority in personnel issues. During the recent water leak problems Mayor Whitener asked some City employees to help work the front counter. Council member Rodney Kendall claims that what Mayor Whitener told him she intended to do with personnel and what she did was two different things. Whitener contested that she was just trying to provide service to the citizens during the water supply problems. Arp referred to the City charter and again questioned Whitener's authority over personnel and their duties.
Several emails questioning Whitener’s authority from Arp to Syfan concerning the City charter prompted Whitener’s request for the City Attorney, David Syfan to write the City Council and clarify her position as to directing personnel and her day to day responsibilities. Syfan let the council know that the Mayor is the CEO of the City and has day to day authority over personnel. Arp and Kendall contested that Whitener changed employee’s responsibilities and duties and that can only be done by the council. In an email Kendall requested Syfan attend the next city council meeting to which council members Rhonda Thomas and Arp agreed that Syfan should attend the next meeting.
Mayor Whitener told FYN that it did not hurt any city employees who worked at city hall to help work the counter from time to time. This she said would help provide the citizens of Blue Ridge service when the come in to city hall.
"We are here for the citizens and we are here to provide a service they pay for and that includes customer service at city hall.”
The mayor feels that providing customer service is everyone’s duty and responsibility.
So after a month of emails, mostly initiated by council member Arp and several from council member Rhonda Thomas, which probably cost the city a sizeable amount in attorney fees, we sat down with council members Arp and Thomas to ask if they were going to move past the first meeting and focus on issues important to the citizens of Blue Ridge. Blue Ridge business owners have asked several times about having Sunday alcohol sales placed on the ballot for a vote. In order to place this on the May 20th ballot the city must meet what is known as the 90 day call rule. This is the legal requirement to notify the state what will be on the ballot. In order to meet the deadline the city will need to name an election supervisor and vote to place the referendum on the ballot before February 19th.
Watch the interviews below. We ask the hard hitting questions. Will council members be able to put their differences aside and focus on what's best for the City?
Is this a personal problem between Arp, Thomas, and Whitener? Will Sunday sales be on the ballot?