Pasts of Finalists Elude Council

BLYTHEWOOD – As Town Council and the Mayor narrow the field in search of a new Town administrator, it turns out two of the four approved finalists have been in the news for the wrong reasons.

A Google search by The Voice revealed that finalist Stevie Cox, Town Manager for Chadbourn, N.C. since 2007, had a couple of brushes with law enforcement in 2011. After a traffic stop in March 2011, Cox was initially cited by N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper Ronnie Walker for driving 78 miles per hour in a 60 MPH zone. As a result of that stop, Cox was arrested by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation the following week and indicted for speeding, impersonating a police officer, obstructing an officer and delaying police. According to The News Reporter in Whitesville, N.C., the State Trooper who ticketed Cox said Cox was stopped while driving the Town Police Chief’s SUV and initially tried to pass himself off as the Sheriff. The case went to court the following October and ended with a mistrial after the jury deadlocked 7-5. According to information provided to The Voice by the Whitesville Clerk of Court’s office, the District Attorney decided against going forward with another trial and the charge of impersonating a police officer was dismissed in Superior Court in February 2013. Cox pleaded guilty to the speeding charge, which was reduced from 78 MPH to 69 MPH, and paid a $100 fine.

On Nov. 29, 2011, Cox was again ticketed, this time for running a stop sign in downtown Chadbourn, driving with a revoked license plate and without car insurance. A spokesperson in the Clerk of Court’s office told The Voice that Cox “worked out the stop light infraction” so that it was reduced to “improper equipment.” The other two charges were dismissed after the infractions were corrected by Cox. According to Court records, Cox paid a $25 fine and $238 in court costs.

Another of the four finalists for Blythewood’s administrator’s job, Gary Parker, Town Administrator for Sunset Beach, N.C. until he retired last December, apparently had problems being transparent with his own government. It was reported in the media that in May 2012, Parker refused to release a list of salaries of town officials to the town’s mayor, Richard Cerrato, after Cerrato requested it. Parker told the media that he would only release the salaries to the Mayor if the Town Council approved it. A Sunset Beach Town Council member, who asked not to be identified, told The Voice that all town officials’ salaries are public record in North Carolina and that a vote of the Council was not required for their release.

When ask by The Voice on Tuesday whether Blythewood’s selection committee or Town Hall had vetted the finalists before they were announced, Blythewood Mayor J. Michael Ross said they were not.

“We had a great process,” Ross said, “but maybe when we do this again, we will Google them earlier.”

Councilman Bob Mangone, chairman of the selection committee, told The Voice that he took responsibility for the failure to Google earlier. Ross said he is conducting a last re-interview of two of the finalists, but that a final decision will not be made until the end of the month. The other two finalists are Wade Luther, the Economic Development Director for Camden, and T. Lloyd Kerr, former Development Services Director for Escambia County, Fla. Kerr is not currently employed.

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