By Barry Merrill
On the advice of the town’s attorney, Calypso’s mayor nulled the last-month vote of a town board member against the passage of a business zone in town, and called the new zone in town passed.
The amendment of the minutes of the last meeting brought an extended discussion at the start of last Monday’s monthly Calypso Town Board meeting. Mayor Rubylene Lambert began the discussion, saying after last month’s meeting, she was informed Town Commissioner Larry Cashwell’s vote on the zoning change violated state ethics law which prohibits him from exercising his authority as a town board member to affect property he owns. The mayor said she should have recused him from voting.
That brought an immediate challenge from Town Commissioner David Tyndall, who responded that if Mr. Cashwell should not have voted against, Town Board member Debbie Jones’s vote should not have counted either, in favor of passage. He also said Planning Board Chairman Roger Davis had property included in the business zone as well, and if Mr. Cashwell’s vote was considered unethical, Mr. Davis’s involvement on the preparation of the zoning plan was unethical as well.
The other two town board members who voted against the business zone, Bill Rose and Larry Cashwell, echoed Mr. Tyndall’s disagreement.
Mayor Lambert said she had consulted with Town Attorney Doug Connor and the League of Municipalities in Chapel Hill on the various claims, and she was acting on the advice of the two. Mrs. Jones’s family business, Pro Med, is in the zone, but the vote did not represent a change from the current use of the business. Since the planning board had no authority to change the zoning, only to make recommendations, Mr. Davis was not covered under the regulations.
Mayor Lambert said with the 2-2 tie vote, her vote would break the tie, and while she was not voting, under legal precedent, her non-vote was counted as in favor of the motion, passing the measure.
Mr. Tyndall continued insisting that he had read the state regulations and he interpreted them differently than the town attorney and the League of Municipalities.
Neither Mrs. Jones nor Mr. Davis responded to any of the allegations, but later in the meeting as Mr. Davis presented the recommendations of the Planning Board, he corrected an earlier statement before the town board that homes could not be built or allowed in the business zone. Mobile homes would specifically be excluded, however.