Editorial — Town board members need to better understand their roles
Sarge Butters’ removal from the Mocksville Police Department created quite the stir.
It wasn’t entirely necessary.
The decision came to the desk of Town Manager Matt Settlemyer. He couldn’t win. Whether or not the cat should have kept the police department as his home is debatable, and it should have been debated.
But it wasn’t.
Settlemyer was pressured by board members Amy Vaughn-Jones and Brent Ward to make the decision. In a disturbing series of emails and correspondence from Vaughn-Jones and Ward to the manager — first obtained by DaVonté McKenith of WXII-TV news and later by the Enterprise Record — the two board members seem to have overstepped their authority, strong-arming their will upon the manager.
They didn’t suggest the matter be brought up before the entire board. They sent emails telling the manager that the cat must go.
Sarge Butters was the Facebook presence for the department, a stroke of marketing genius. Instead of rewarding that genius, the two board members and the manager flushed it down the toilet. It started after a woman was killed while crossing the street in downtown. The next day, Sarge Butters issued a Facebook message asking residents to be careful driving and walking downtown. A good message. A well-written message. A positive message from a tragic event.
But from a cat?
No way, said Vaughn-Jones and Ward.
She visited the department, and found a cat litter box in the women’s bathroom, cat toys in the administrative area. She told the manager the department was not being managed properly, asking for details on how many officers had left their job, who worked in the office and who on the road and when, etc. Vaughn-Jones even told the manager if something wasn’t done, she would be in favor of dissolving the Mocksville Police Department and letting the sheriff’s office fight crime in the town.
There will always be complaints coming from within the police department. It’s the nature of the game when some get promotions and some do not. Get used to it.
After the police department’s negative publicity in recent years, the board members should have welcomed the positive image that Sarge Butters and the community policing policy was bringing. But no.
Mocksville has a city manager. The police department falls under his duties. No single town board member has the right to demand that anything happen there, or at any other town department. That’s the manager’s job. If the problems are really bad, the issue — this time Sarge Butters — should have been taken before the full board for everyone to see and hear. Commissioners Brian Williams and Rob Taylor are on record saying they support the current administration at the police department. Only Eric Southern has remained silent. He may be the smart one.
We asked Settlemyer “why now” on Sarge Butters’ quick removal from his home, which, by the way, happened while Chief Pat Reagan was on vacation.
He said “why not now,” but a look at those emails may provide the answer.
After telling the manager “the cat must go,” Ward asked for a closed session at the next meeting to discuss a personnel issue. And since board members only hire the town manager, the town clerk and the town attorney, Settlemyer may have felt his job was on the line. No public discussion or action was taken after that short closed session.
Settlemyer had already made his decision.
Like we said, if the town thought Sarge Butters was not a “professional” image for the department, something should have been done a long time ago. It should have been stopped before it started, or at least soon after.
While it is fine for town board members to make suggestions to the manager, it is not OK for them to make demands. It’s their job to form budgets, decide on rezoning cases, give direction to the manager — as a group — not as individuals.
Stop trying to micro-manage.
Mike Barnhardt is the editor of the Davie County Enterprise-Record.
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