County commissioners, ABC board clash over records request
By Jessie Burchette
County commissioners canceled a presentation by the Rowan-Kannapolis ABC board Monday night after a top official refused to provide reports requested by a commissioner.
Commissioners voted unanimously to delay the ABC board’s presentation until it complies with a request from Commissioner Tina Hall for detailed reports on salaries, bonuses, raises and credit card statements for the past two years.
Hall said the board’s refusal raises questions.
Commissioners agreed earlier this month to listen to the ABC board’s explanation of its operations and lack of profits for distribution to the county and municipalities.
Gus Andrews, a member of the ABC board and a former chairman of the Board of Commissioners, blasted county officials for their stance.
Andrews spoke during a public comment period, saying commissioners’ decision was “very questionable.” He said the board had its “total composite” presentation on the ABC operation ready. He again rebuffed a call for bringing in an outside group to do an efficiency study.
“You voted not to listen,” Andrews said, adding that he totally disapproved of commissioners’ action.
Carl Ford, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, reminded Andrews twice that he had exceeded the three-minute limit for public speakers. Finally, Ford stopped Andrews, who got in a few last words: “We may not be here in two weeks.”
Ford said later he hated to stop Andrews but that everyone has to comply with the three-minute limit.
On May 12, acting on behalf of Hall, Carolyn Athey, clerk to the Board of Commissioners, sent an e-mail to Osborne requesting the information and asking that it be provided prior to the meeting Monday.
Initially, Osborne said the material would be provided later in the week.
According to e-mails released by the county, Osborne told Athey on Monday afternoon that he could not provide the information until instructed to do so by his board. Osborne also noted it was not part of the original request and was made by only one commissioner.
Shortly thereafter, commissioners obtained an opinion from County Attorney Jay Dees, who said the information requested is a public record and that Osborne, not the ABC board, is the custodian of the information.
“Refusal to provide the records by the board raises other questions,” wrote Dees. He went on to spell out potential legal action in which the person requesting the information could ask a Rowan County superior court judge to order the records disclosed.
Hall asked for the following:
– Current salary of each ABC employee;
– How much, if any, bonuses were paid to ABC employees in the past two years and how much, if any, pay increases were provided to ABC employees in the past two years;
– Who, if anyone, at the ABC office, including board members, has been issued credit cards, along with detailed copies of credit card statements for the past two years.
At the outset of the meeting, when commissioners set their agenda, Hall raised the issue of the ABC board’s failure to provide the information. She noted the county board has previously delayed presentations when information hasn’t been provided.
Commissioner Chad Mitchell suggested commissioners go ahead and hear the presentation on the lack of profits and the issue of an efficiency study.
Hall replied that without the documents requested, the board wouldn’t have complete information.
“We have a right to see these,” Hall said.
Hall made the motion to delete the presentation from the agenda, giving the ABC board more time to comply. Ford seconded the motion.
On the voice vote, Ford and Hall spoke out. Mitchell, Vice Chairman Jon Barber and Raymond Coltrain remained silent, which means they were counted as “yes” votes, making the decision unanimous.
In addition to Andrews speaking during public comment, another former county commissioner weighed in.
Jim Sides, who routinely sits on the front row at meetings of the commissioners since losing his re-election bid in November, spoke out for the first time.
Sides said he requested similar information when he was a commissioner and didn’t get it.
Sides wondered aloud how a business that sells $7 million a year in alcohol can produce such a small profit.
Sides, an avowed opponent of alcohol, said if the county is going to sell alcohol, the county should get the profits.
The ABC board, Chairman Marney Hendrick, Ken Argo and Andrews, as well as Ralph Ketner, the Food Lion co-founder who is an advisor to the ABC board, left the meeting room and could be heard in the hallway outside.
Kannapolis Mayor Bob Misenheimer and City Manager Mike Legg attended the meeting and also left as the ABC group departed.
Ford briefly recessed the meeting to give time for the hall noise to diminish.
Commissioners also agreed to advertise an upcoming vacancy on the ABC board along with some other vacancies.
Andrews’ term ends July 31.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.