Commissioners delay decision on Barber censure

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 19, 2013

SALISBURY — County leaders will wait two weeks to address the findings of an internal investigation into an alleged ethics violation by Commissioner Jon Barber.
County Risk Manager Yvonne Moebs presented a 142-page report to commissioners at Monday evening’s meeting after county leaders said Barber made personal copies on the county’s copying machine.
In the report, Moebs said Barber used the county’s copier but could not tally the number of copies nor the total amount the copies cost.
“I do conclude that Mr. Barber used county equipment and supplies for personal usage when he made copies of the documents relating to Mobile Farm Fresh,” Moebs wrote.
But Moebs left the final decision up to the board.
“The determination of whether actions constitute a violation of the code of ethics for the board of commissioners is one based on the discretion and judgement of the decision maker,” she said. “Therefore, I have not made any final conclusions regarding whether Mr. Barber’s use of the county’s equipment constituted a breach of the board’s code of ethics as this would be an issue for the board to decide.”
County officials voted 4-1 to revisit the findings at the board’s Dec. 2 meeting.
The censure process typically amounts to a public reprimand, but county officials could elect to present the investigation to the local district attorney, Moebs said.
“I have not made any conclusions on whether such a referral should be made as this would be a decision for the board,”she wrote.
After the presentation, Sides said none of the board had seen the information and needed time to review the findings. Vice Chairman Pierce seconded the motion.
But just as Sides called the vote, Barber asked to speak and railed against his fellow commissioners.
“The copier issue is nearly a year old issue that was trumped up because I won’t do what you say — because I won’t silently follow along as you run this county into the ground and raise everyone’s property taxes in the process,” Barber said. “This board is into force. This board is into punishment. This board is into bullying.
“You’ve bullied the school system. You’ve bullied the city. You’ve bullied the economic development commission. You’ve bullied employees and nonprofits. And you’ve bullied me — whether by email, in private or in these very meetings.”
Barber has maintained that the copier investigation was prompted after he spoke critically of the board to the press and during Salisbury City Council meetings.
Pierce said the investigation began after Barber repeatedly made copies on the copier, even after being asked to stop.
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.