Resident who was asked to leave Landis meeting finds little success responding
LANDIS — The citizens’ comment portion of the town meeting became very heated Monday night after a resident tried to discuss being asked to leave town property during a recent closed session.
Nadine Cherry attended a special meeting the town board Wednesday that ended with a closed session. She waited outside the town hall, she said, as she always has in the past.
But Mayor James Furr asked Landis Police Detective Roger Hosey to remove her from the property. Furr said he believed Cherry was outside videotaping the closed session meeting, which Cherry denies.
Cherry regularly attends town board meetings and for nearly 10 years has recorded them on her video camera. Cherry maintains she records the meetings for her own records and memory.
Cherry began reading from a prepared statement at the end of the Monday night regular board meeting. But before she had a chance to continue, town attorney Rick Locklear interrupted. Cherry told Locklear she had a right to speak during the citizens’ comment portion of the meeting.
Locklear, who began to raise his voice, told Cherry she should understand that the board was discussing sensitive material.
Before Cherry began speaking Monday, Furr read from a statement regarding the purpose of Wednesday’s closed session. He said the meeting was to discuss a recent attempt to defraud the town. He did not specify how the attempt was made, but only read from the statement. He said the incident was discovered thanks to the quick actions of town staff and the Bank of the Carolinas. He said the incident is part of an ongoing investigation by Landis Police, who are being assisted by federal law enforcement.
The incident does not involve residents, current or former employees of the town, or Bank of the Carolinas, Furr said. The investigation has identified several individuals, but Furr said to protect the integrity of the investigation no other details would be released at this time.
“I ask you to respect these gentlemen’s authority,” Locklear said.
Locklear said when he looks out at the council chambers, he sees windows. When he asked Cherry if she thought the board should pull the shades to have a closed session or go into a back room, Cherry tried to continue reading her statement. Locklear cut her off again.
She provided the Post with a copy of her statement, which said after the board moved to go into executive session, she turned her camcorder off, gathered her belongings and left. She said the “normal procedure” is that she stands outside until she’s allowed to go back inside.
“Mayor Furr, I was not videotaping that (investigation) meeting nor was I trying to lip read. As for even seeing you during that meeting’s proceedings, I did not,” she said.
Cherry told the board she was “willing to take a lie detector test. Are you?,” she asked, directing the question at Furr and the board.
Cherry said she may retain an attorney in the matter.
She did not have the opportunity to read much of her statement, and much of what she read was inaudible since she and Locklear were talking at the same time.
Locklear said if the meeting had been about an employee and Cherry had reported that to another individual, “you violate that person’s identity” and “you violate their rights.”
Locklear told Cherry she was entitled to videotape, but she should not be allowed to peer into the windows in an effort to “lip read.”
Cherry tried to continue reading from her statement, but Locklear asked her to give him an answer regarding what she felt should be done.
“Why don’t you answer my question?” Locklear asked.
“Let me finish my statement,” Cherry said.
“She has your statement,” Locklear said, pointing to a Post reporter.
Locklear continued to press Cherry for a response. She never responded directly to Locklear or any members of the board.
When the podium microphone malfunctioned, Cherry refused to comment further without a working microphone. She did not return to the podium.
Furr said he agreed with what the town attorney said. After the meeting, Furr said he stood by his decision last week to have Cherry removed.
Alderman Roger Safrit said after the meeting he felt Cherry was an “intrusion” and she was asked to leave for that very reason, he said.
“We felt she was videotaping. We felt intimidated. That’s the reason she was asked to leave,” Safrit said.
Safrit pointed to a state statute regarding disruptions of official meetings to a Post reporter. The statute discusses anyone who interrupts, disturbs or disrupts an official meeting and who is asked to leave, but refuses, can be found guilty of a misdemeanor. When Cherry was asked to leave the Wednesday closed session, she left willingly.
No one else spoke regarding the matter.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: www.twitter.com/salpostpotts Facebook: www.facebook.com/Shavonne.SalisburyPost.