County Asks Judge
For Immunity From Pearly Vereen Lawsuit
BY ERIC CARLSON
Insurance company lawyers defending Brunswick
County against former Commissioner Pearly Vereen's
[political discrimination lawsuit on Monday asked a su
perior court judge to dismiss the action, saying the board
members who eliminated his county job cannot be sued
for doing so.
But Vereen's attorney Sheila McLamb argued that
North Carolina courts have never granted county com
missioners "legislative immunity" in such personnel cas
es. She cautioned Judge Jack Thompson that he would
he setting an important precedent by agreeing to apply
the doctrine in this case.
"You may be setting the public policy in North
Carolina for the principle of legislative immunity."
Mcl.amb told the judge. "That is not something to be
After accepting a thick pile of supporting documents
and listening to both sides argue over the county's mo
tion for dismissal. Judge Thompson said it would "more
than likely be a week" before he makes his decision.
Vereen 's lawsuit claims his job in the county water
department was written out of the 1991-92 budget by
three Republican commissioners because Vereen is a
Democrat who was within 41 days of qualifying for re
The suit requests a court order forcing the county to
immediately re-hire Vereen and seeks a jury trial on
whether he should be awarded more than $68,000 in
back pay along with benefits, actual damages in excess
of Si 0,000, punitive damages and legal costs.
In arguing for dismissal of the lawsuit Monday, attor
ney Reginald Gillespie of Durham relied heavily on a
federal judge's recent decision to grant the Brunswick
County Commissioners immunity from a similar suit
filed by former Clerk to the Board Regina .Alexander,
whose salary was eliminated in the same budget that
deleted Vereen's position and 13 others from the county
Commissioners at the time said the cuts were made as
a "reduction in force" to help balance the budget.
Alexander alleged that the Republican board got rid of
her because she is black and a Democrat.
In throwing out the Alexander suit last month, U.S.
District Judge James C. Fox said a county board's draft
ing of an annual budget was "uniquely legislative in na
ture" and called it a discretionary action that falls
"squarely within the political decision making authority"
of the board.
"Legislators must be protected from the burdens of
subjecting their discretionary decision making authority
to the serotinous eye of the court," Fox wrote. "It is this
separation of powers that the doctrine of legislative im
munity seeks to preserve."
Gillespie used Fox's reasoning to insist that the
Constitutional "separation of powers" prevents the com
missioners ? a legislative body ? from being called on to
testify in a lawsuit ? a court action ? about their reasons
for eliminating positions.
In rebuttal. McLamb noted that Fox did not dismiss
Alexander's state claims, allowing her to re-file the law
suit in state courts two weeks later.
Lawyers on both sides of the Vcreen case admitted
thai the legal doctrine of legislative immunity has never
been applied to county commissioners in North
But despite the l*ck of case law on the subject,
Gillespie argued that commissioners would be unable to
make decisions about the size and structure of county
government if they had to worry about being sued for
every personnel decision. He callcd legislative immunity
"a principal that goes to the very foundation of our gov
ernment. back to the colonies."
McLamb argued that under its personnel policy, the
county had an employment contract with Vercen and vi
olated the agreement when it failed to follow proper pro
cedures in firing him. The county insists that Vereen was
not fired and that his job was eliminated as a legally per
missible reduction in force.
Vereen was hired Aug. 1 1, 1986, as "assistant director
of operational services," a position created by a
Democrat-dominated board after he declined to seek re
election to his county commissioners seat. The position
has not been re- funded since its elimination.
H/vfr Won+hnr Tn C Antini 10
? ? w ? t t ? ? W ? ? ? ? a W V
Temperatures arc expected to be hotter than normal for the next
week, with the forecast calling for nightly lows in the mid 70s and daily
highs in the lower 90s.
"Hot and humid." Shallotte Point amateur meteorologist Jackson
Canady said Tuesday, adding that he expects about one inch of rainfall
over the next seven days.
For the period July 12-18, Canady did not measure any rain. "On my
rain gauge I had no rainfall, although I know other parts of the county did
get some." he said.
The daily average high during the period was 93 degrees and the av
erage nightly low was 76 degrees for a daily average of 84 degrees,
which is about 4 degrees above normal.
Canady recorded a maximum high temperature of 96 degrees on July
17 and a minimum low of 74 degrees on the 16th.
Liquor Store Proposal
Divides Ash Residents
(Continued From Page 1-A)
board's plans for a store in Ash
\Mthin the last couple weeks.
Commissioner Rabon said he
didn't know about the proposal until
he was contacted by a newspaper re
porter two weeks ago.
Smith said if a county ABC store
isn't built in Ash. the community
will incorporate and build a store of
its own. "The end result if this con
tinues as such is we will incorpo
rate." he said.
On (he outside looking in are
Shallotte officials, who fear further
cuts in revenues generated by the
town liquor store in a new county
store is opened in Ash.
Town aldermen passed a resolu
tion last month opposing any new
county ABC stores in the Shallotte
area, including Ash.
Since the county opened its first
ABC store near Holdcn Beach four
years ago. the amount of money
Shallotte receives from its ABC
store each year has dropped more
than 60 percent.
In the five years prior to the open
ing of the Holdcn Beach Road store,
Shallotte received an average of
$64,359 in annual ABC store rev
The town has received $24,000
cach of tiit la.M uuee years ana offi
cials anticipate only S20.000 this fis
"If they open that store in Ash
and it impacts us as much as the one
at Holden Beach did, we might as
well close our store," Mayor Sarah
Tripp said recently.
Pergerson Is Democrats'
Nominee For School Board
Brunswick County Democrat* chose Bryant Pergerson of Boiling
Spring Lakes last Thursday as their new candidate for the District 4 seat
on the Brunswick County Board of Education.
An emergency preparedness specialist at CP&L's Brunswick Nuclear
Plant, Pergerson ran for the seat is 1992. but lost the Democratic primary
vote to incumbent Donna Baxter; who then won re-election to a second
In balloting Thursday, he received ? substantial majority of the votes
cast by Democratic precinct leaden. Dot Worth of Ash, a former school
board member, was the other contender for the nomination.
Pergerson said he is active with kids through volunteer tutoring,
Scout work and participation in youth sports, was -flattered** by party
leadens* 80 to 6 vote last week, and hopes to do something good *Tor the
kids" if elected.
Parent involvement is a top priority for him, be said. "Most parents
would like to get involved but don't know bow. As busy as things are to
day. most of the time they don't realize their child has a problem until
it's a real problem.'*
He'd like to see the school system promote TV-free Tuesdays and
Friday family nights. On Tuesdays, instead of watching television, par
ents would help children with homework and find out first-hand bow
they're doing. On Fridays, parents would plan wholesome activities with
their children, offering a positive role model to them.
Baxter, presently chairman of the board, began seeking her third
term on the board this spring, but withdrew after the primary, saying she
was no longer effective in leading the school board. Baxter was criticized
for failure to improve the school board's rocky relationship with county
commissioners. A candidate who died too late for his name to be re
moved from the ballot collected a substantial number of votes in the
Pergerson will face Republican nominee Pat Purvis Brown of Ash in
the Nov. 8 election. Brown did not have a primary contest.
'Hero' To Be Recognized
For Aiding Abuse Victim
(Continued From Page 1-A)
she was treated and released.
As is lo often the case, charges
against the assailant were dropped
after the victim refused to testify
against him in court Deputy Lt. Carl
Pearson said Tuesday. He was one
of many officers who praised
"His performance was exem
plary," Pearson said. "It's not too of
ten that we encounter people like
him who are willing to go out on a
limb for a perfect stranger. It's nice
to sec a citizen get recognized for
doing something good."
Poulk did not seem surprised to
hear that the woman's assailant went
unpunished. A happily married fa
ther of twoaoofc, he said he has nev
er come in contact with domestic vi
"I hope I never do," he said. "I
hated to see what happened in the
Simpson case, how things like this
can escalate so quickly. Unless he
gets some help, it could easily hap
pen again. I'm afraid it probably
A June 30 story on the county's
1994-95 budget reported that a 10
cent increase in county water rates
was 'due largely to higher raw-wa
ter costs charged to the county by
the Ixiwer Cape Fear Water and
Although a document furnished
by the LCFWSA included a chart
listing the "proportion of county rate
increase attributable to the authori
ty's water rate" as 10 cents, the final
rate increase approved by the au
thority was three cents
Island Owners Seek 'Compromise' On Building
(Continued From Page 1-A)
signed to conserve wetlands and
other fragile areas while still allow
ing the property owner what the
(own considered reasonable use of
the property as required by law.
It agreed to allow one six-bed
room, single-family home per acre,
and allowed the possibility of a
community ccnter. boat dock and
recreational facilities with a special
permit from the town's board of ad
Councilwoman Julia Thomas ob
jected to Ryder's past comparisons
of zoning of Bird Island and the is
land of Sunset Beach, "because they
are so different." she said. She also
raised concerns about the project's
impact on the town's existing traffic
problems, especially if evacuation of
the islands was necessary because of
With the only access a series of
bridges and causeway between Bird
Island and 40th Street, the only
evacuation route for Bird Island oc
cupants would be across another
barrier island that already requires
significant lead time to get people
off the island safely.
In developing its current zoning
for Bird Island, she said, the town
"worked hard to ensure at least the
owner's minimum rights" to use of
the land and was concerned as it saw
Knee's proposal change from a 15
home "family compound" to a larg
er, more commercial development.
The proposals presented Tuesday
by Ryder will be formally submitted
to the planning board, which will re
view them and make a recommenda
tion to the town council At that
"You couldn't devise a project
that could be more heavily
regulated unless you wrote low
level radioactive waste disposal
into it. " ? Rees Poag
point, regardless of the planning
board's recommendation, the peti
tioners will have an opportunity for
a public hearing on their rezoning
"I think this is fair and allows rea
sonable use of the property," said
Ryder. "We've moved toward the
middle now, and we really want to
The proposal backs away from
Ryder specifically proposed:
? reducing minimum lot size
from the existing one acre with SO
percent uplands to one-half acre
with 12.00 square feet (55 percent)
? allowing a maximum of eight
bedrooms rather than six bedrooms
per unit, assuming permits can be
? limiting the front yard setback
for oceanfront properties to 25 feet
inland of the 60-foot CAM A setback
line established by the N.C. Office
of Coastal Management instead of
65 feet. Ryder said a lot of the high,
buildable lands on the island are
"near the water's edge"?
? establishing a density cap of
two dwelling units per acre of net
buildable acreage, instead of one
unit per acre.
If the town chooses not to change
the front yard setback, Ryder said
the result would be the loss of seven
to eight occanfront lots "at an im
pact of several million dollars".
Even if lot sizes were reduced as
proposed, said Ryder, developers
would still have available 1.3 times
the septic system fields needed even
"at a very conservative loading
The project is also being designed
to have "zero net impact" on wet
lands, according to Ryder, and to
have on-site stormwater contain
ment, even on the bridges.
Price's consultants are about to
begin what Ryder termed "the ardu
ous task" of preparing an environ
mental impact statement required by
both the U.S. Coast Guard and the
N.C. Office of Coastal Management.
It will study not just the immediate
impact of proposed 1,800-feet and
440-fcet bridges, but the overall pri
mary and secondary impacts of the
entire development of bridges,
causeway and subdivision.
The agencies want to see prelimi
nary .subdivision plans, an environ
mental assessment and endangered
species inventory; a study of Mad
Inlet's migration history; impacts on
traffic, socio-economic effects and
visual quality; as well as considera
tion of alternative site(s), and addi
tional surveying work to more clear
ly define wetlands areas.
Poag. who at one time worked
with the state's coastal management
program, told council, half-serious
ly, "You couldn't devise a project
that could be more heavily regulated
(by the local, state and federal gov
ernments) unless you wrote low-lev
el radioactive waste disposal into it."
As owner Price continues efforts
to obtain the required Coast Guard
and CAM A permits for the bridge
and island development, the Bird
Island Preservation Society is con
tinuing its efforts to educate the pub
lic and raise money for the possible
public acquisition and preservation
of Bird Island in its natural state.
State Rep. David Redwine said
Monday that while the General
Assembly did not set aside a re
quested $ 1 million in reserve toward
that end, it did leave a window open.
Typically if a funding request
isn't considered during a budget ses
sion, that item is not eligible if funds
that could be used for that purpose
come available at some point during
the budget period. The General
Assembly exempted the Bird Island
funding bill from that limit in case
its status changes during the year,
money becomes available and the
owner decides to make the island
available for purchase.
Zoning Scheme Needs Review, Board Says
(Continued From Page 1-A)
Vereen also said he has received nu
merous complaints about the law.
He has been a consistent opponent
of the ordinance since its adoption in
"There's been more confusion
about this than anything else in the
county," Vereen said. "It's almost
like they set out to decide (zoning
designations) without even looking
at what's there. I was never in favor
of zoning to begin with. It's not one
of my things."
Jones announced his resignation
from the planning board immediate
ly after the commissioners voted
unanimously to re-examine zoning.
He was a member of the planning
board when the law was drafted and
sat on the board of commissioners
when zoning was adopted.
He refused to comment further on
his reasons for leaving the planning
"Are you sure about this?" War
ren asked Jones after the announce
"I certainly am," Jones replied. "I
think somebody else ought to have
some of the fun."
Before the planning board began
work on the zoning ordinance, its
meetings were usually brief and
largely uneventful. That quickly
changed as the group began trying lo
iron out problems in the draft ordi
nance. Discussions of the proposed
law often became heated. One meet
ing nearly ended in a fist fight as a
zoning opponent openly challenged
a former planning board member.
Since the law's adoption, the
board has found itself swamped with
requests for minor zoning changes
and often attacked by citizens
groups opposed to large, controver
sial zoning designations.
Last fall, the planning board
found itself cast as (he enemy in (he
fight to prohibit Martin Marietta
Aggregates from opening a lime
stone quarry in an industrial zone
designated for such usage. A public
hearing on a proposal to re-zone the
area had to be adjourned due to
heckling from unruly protesters.
Sheriff's deputies were assigned (o
keep order at subsequent meetings.
Last spring. Planning Director
John Harvey, architect of the zoning
ordinance, was replaced by former
Zoning Administrator Wade Home.
Recent planning board meetings
"I think somebody else ought to have
some of the fun, "
? Commissioner Jerry Jones
have been less controversial. But the
agendas have swelled significantly
with formal requests for re-zoning.
By law, each zoning change must be
considered at a public hearing be
fore the planning board and another
in front of the commissioners.
Home said Tuesday he was some
what surprised by the commission
ers complaints about the implemen
tation of zoning.
"It's my understanding that's
what we've been doing all along,"
The process of modifying the or
dinance will be time-consuming and
is likely to raise at least minor con
troversies for many years to come.
"New Hanover County has had
zoning in place for 10 years and I
guarantee they hear four or five re
quests for changes at every one of
their meetings," he said. "If we try
to reach a point where we never
have re-zonings, that will never be
possible. It's got to be flexible. As
the county changes, the zoning has
to change with it."
He noted that the planning depart
ment has considered more than 60
map amendments and passed them
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Published Every Thursday
At 4709 Main Street
Shallotte, N.C. 28459
IN BRUNSWICK COUNTY
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Six Months $5.55
One Year $14.86
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on the planning board for approval
in the past four months. He said the
planning staff has also handled nu
merous "technical corrections" that
were identified and sent through the
hearing process without residents of
the affected areas having to apply
Planning Board Chairman John
Thompson also said he was sur
prised to hear the criticism and in
sisted that his board has been putting
in long hour* listening to the pub
lic's feelings about the law. He said
modification of the zoning map and
ordinance was an ongoing process.
"I'm not sure there's that much
left to do anymore. The number of
re-zoning requests has been gradual
ly decreasing," he said "Consid
ering there were 90,000 parcels of
land zoned for the first time at one
fell swoop, I'd say we've done pret
Thompson noted that each plan
ning board member puts in "an aver
age of 12 hours a month preparing
for and attending meetings
"That's a lot to ask of people who
work full time jobs and volunteer
their time afterwards,'' he said.
Thompson said he was surprised
to team of Jones' resignation, call
ing him a "very important member
of the planning board" who was ex
tremely understanding of people's
Home echoed Thompson's praise
for Jones's efforts, saying he was
"surprised and disappointed" to hear
"He was the voice of the people,"
Home said. "In his line of work,
Jerry Jones talks with a lot of differ
ent folks every day. He deals with
builders and developers and building
inspectors and average citizens. He
brought a lot of their concerns to the
table. I hope he changes his mind."
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