LAURINBURG —Mayor Matthew Block accused fellow council member Mary Jo Adams of being unethical for failing to disclose that a family member worked at a business that the city paid to promote the area.
Block had asked council to re-vote on a request to allocate $3,466 for the promotional WPDE series “On the Road with Cecil” because Adam’s brother David Bridgeman is a manager at the television station.
“When you’re talking about voting on spending citizens’ money — that if you have a family member working for that company — that must be disclosed in the interest of ethical government,” Block said at Tuesday’s Laurinburg City Council meeting.
But much of Block’s argument was refuted when Adams played a recording from last year informing the council that her brother was employed by the business. At the May 9, 2016 meeting, Adams told council, including Block, that her brother worked for the Myrtle Beach, S.C. news station.
“I need to make a disclosure, my brother works in advertising at WPDE,” Adams said on the recording.
Council member Dee Hammond said the tape contradicted Block’s argument that council needed to re-vote because officials were unaware of Adams’ possible conflict.
“She disclosed what she needed to disclose at that meeting,” Hammond said. “I don’t see how any council member was coerced into voting yes because she had some backdoor meeting so to speak … you were there.”
Council member Drew Williamson asked the mayor to apologize to Adams. Block did say he was sorry but questioned why Adams had not mentioned the disclosure before.
“I still think that before each time she votes on the issue she should offer to recuse herself from voting,” Block said. “I think that is the standard.”
In an email to council members earlier this month, City Attorney Bill Floyd said that Adams did not violate any state statutes and a re-vote was unnecessary. Frayda S. Bluestein, a law professor at the UNC School of Government, agreed with Floyd.
The city attorney repeated that assessment Tuesday night.
“It is not a conflict of interest and I have tried to explain that to council,” Floyd said. “Ms. Adams under the circumstances had an obligation to vote on that matter. She could not recuse herself under the law.”
Adams said she thought it was comical that Block, with his own ethical lapses, was accusing someone else of being unethical.
“Talking about ethics … is hilarious coming from you,” she said.
Adams chided the mayor for failing to attend ethics training as an elected official. She also mentioned his legal problems in regard to his medical practice.
“On July 9, 2008, you received a notice for a hearing for unprofessional conduct because you could not abide by the ethics of the medical profession,” she said. “So ethics seems to be a problem with you.”
The council voted unanimoulsy to help pay for the 30-minute segments promoting business, organizations and events in Scotland County.
Reach Nolan Gilmour at 910-506-3171