Sides wants to censure Barber

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 17, 2013

SALISBURY — Jon Barber has had better nights as a county commissioner.

Four of Barber’s fellow Rowan County commissioners voted to conduct a censure investigation into copies that Barber allegedly made on the county’s dime for his personal business.

Chairman Jim Sides called for the censure vote during Monday’s meeting. Vice Chairman Craig Pierce and Commissioners Mike Caskey and Chad Mitchell voted to move forward with the process.

Sides said Barber was confronted by commissioners during a Jan. 22, 2013, closed session.

“The impropriety noted was the use of county equipment and supplies for what appeared to be non-county related business,” Sides said. “In that closed session, Commissioner Barber apologized to the board and promised it would not happen again.”

Sides said he has reason to believe Barber has continued making copies.

But Barber said the censure has to do with his comments to the media — not an eight-month-old copier flap.

“According to the school of government ‘a motion of censure has no legal effect other than to express the dissatisfaction of the majority of the board,’ ” Barber read from a statement to the board. “It’s no secret the majority of the board has been upset with me due to the fact that I respond to questions from the media about county business and I am open and transparent with the public.”

Last week, Barber told the Post Sides’ decision to remove the local school system’s recycling could be viewed as “overextending the control of an elected body” and said Sides and Pierce should have notified commissioners of a meeting with legislators to discuss the recycled materials.

“This isn’t about copies. One’s view is this is a way to silence me,” Barber said. “This is about keeping me from talking to the media and the public. This is nothing more than a code of silence. I cannot be silenced.”

No commissioner in the room looked at Barber during the censureship discussion.

But Pierce and Mitchell said the matter had nothing to do with comments to the media.

“In no way shape or form is this retribution for Mr. Barber speaking to the press,” Pierce said.

Caskey said he simply felt there was enough suspicion to ask for an investigation.

“You know, in this country we’re innocent until proven guilty — at this point Mr. Barber, I would say that he’s innocent, but I believe there’s reasonable suspicious to believe we should start the investigation,” Caskey said.

Monday’s vote started the censure process and will continue with at least two other meetings.

The next meeting, which has not been set, will be as part of a regular board meeting or a special meeting. It will be open to the public.

Rowan County resident Jonathan Morris also called for Barber’s resignation.

Morris said Barber “belittled” his fellow commissioners when he referred to some county leaders as “self-righteous” during a recent City Council meeting.

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.