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Board of Commissioners Special Meeting, Friday, 19 July 2019

At 2:19 pm on Wednesday, 17 July 2019, the Town of Ramseur Facebook page announced a special called meeting of the Board of Commissioners to address the trademark issue, instigated improperly last January by appointed commissioner Adam Smith, and finding a replacement for former town clerk, Bobbie Hatley, who left for greener pastures in Pleasant Garden at the close of business this past Wednesday. The meeting took place at 4pm on Friday, July 19.

The trademark issue began last January when unelected commissioner Adam Smith went rogue and applied to trademark the “logo” of the Town of Ramseur without board approval. A majority of the board did eventually approve the application, but it was several months after the fact. The initial application fee of $923 was paid by Smith and reimbursed to him by the town clerk before some of the board members were made aware of his actions. Anyone who tells you that Smith had permission to pursue a trademark for the Town of Ramseur is lying to you.

I hope you’ll take the time to watch both videos of this short meeting.

As the July 19 meeting got underway, Commissioner Caudle asked why the trademark issue needed to be discussed during a special meeting rather than waiting for the next regular meeting, scheduled for August 5.  Mayor Shaw stated that attorney Bob Wilhoit had called and advised him that the trademark office had responded to the application and a response is required from the board before October 9.

It’s difficult to hear Mr. Wilhoit well because he still refuses to speak into the microphone taxpayers in Ramseur have provided, but in reiterating what the mayor stated Mr. Wilhoit said that there would be an additional attorney fee of $900 to complete the process, bringing the total expenditure to over $1,800. An additional $125 will be required every eight years to maintain the trademark.

This issue came about because a local business owner, Tim Matthews, published a website at ramseur.org. For a time the site utilized Kerri Cox Lindley’s “Where Family and Friends Meet” design in its header. The mayor convinced his puppets on the board –  Cheek, Cox, and Smith – that Mr. Matthews’s website could confuse people into thinking that it was the official website of the Town of Ramseur.

Rather than acting like an adult and simply asking Mr. Matthews not to use that particular graphic, it appears to this observer that Mr. Shaw did what he does best: he got someone else to do his dirty work. Adam Smith, being new to the board and unfamiliar with how government is supposed to operate – with transparency and accountability – took the ball and ran with it, and in the process took most of the heat for what most people perceive as the mayor’s personal vendetta against Tim Matthews.

As for why it was important to address this issue now, rather than at the next regular meeting in just over two weeks, given Mayor Shaw’s track record for dropping the ball on important time sensitive matters in the past, and the utter chaos our municipal office seems to have devolved into in the two days since Clerk Hatley left, Mr. Wilhoit’s advice to address the matter sooner than later was probably the smart thing to do. As for whether the town’s “logo” needs to be trademarked or copyrighted, that is still a point open to much debate. According to some sources trademarking a government insignia isn’t even legal, but we’ll leave that for legal scholars to sort out.

After voting 3 – 2 to proceed the board transitioned into a closed session to discuss hiring an interim town clerk. The video below begins with their return to open session. If you only take time to watch one of these videos, please make it this one.

Upon returning to open session Commissioner Cheek moved that the board proceed with hiring Melody Hancock as interim (not intern, as misstated by Mr. Cheek) Town Clerk for 20-30 hours per week at $30 per hour.

The motion was seconded by Smith and passed 5 – 0. It’s my understanding that Mrs. Hancock brings with her at least twenty years of experience as town clerk in Randleman. I suspect she won’t tolerate much of the unprofessional funny business that the current administration is notorious for.

The board then entered into a discussion of how to proceed with the search for a permanent Town Clerk/Chief Finance Officer. Two proposals from Piedmont Triad Regional Council (PTRC) were emailed to Mayor Shaw earlier in the week, and were obtained as part of an ongoing legal public records request. Both proposals are linked below under their respective prices.

PTRC’s assistance with our search would carry not-to-exceed costs of either $2250, which covers posting the advertised position and a basic first-level screening, or $4500, which includes the same services with a much more thorough vetting process. I encourage you to download both contracts and read them carefully.

Grant Cheek moved that the board proceed with the cheaper option from PTRC. This was seconded again by Cheek’s next door neighbor, Mr. Smith, and discussion proceeded. During the discussion Commissioner Caudle asked some very specific questions about PTRC’s selection criteria, such as whether they would be checking references. Mr. Wilhoit then spoke at length about the process without ever saying for certain whether references would be checked.

The contracts offered state that PTRC will, “Screen and filter candidates per the direction of the Board of Commissioners and the application of the selection criteria.” I don’t believe Commissioner Caudle’s questions were adequately addressed.

Commissioner Caudle also mentioned that she had been in touch with a professional recruitment firm, Ajilon, a professional staffing agency that specializes in financial administrative positions. Mrs. Caudle’s contact at Ajilon had already forwarded four resumes to her for the board to review. The ultimately refused to even consider these applicants.

During part of the discussion Commissioner Cheek alleged that Commissioner Caudle had overstepped her authority in contacting a recruiter on her own. Mrs. Caudle quickly put Mr. Cheek in his place, telling him that she did not need his permission to accept resumes and present them to the board; she only needs board approval to hire someone. Once again, Grant Cheek had his open hatred of Commissioner Caudle on full display for all the world to see.

Recall that the earlier portion of this meeting, the trademark issue, revolves around an issue wherein Cheek and Shaw’s hand-picked appointee went out on his own and spent money on behalf of the Town of Ramseur without board approval, and suffered no repercussions from his fellow commissioners, but Commissioner Caudle gets the third degree for simply obtaining a few resumes that cost us nothing unless we hire one of those candidates. Am I the only one disgusted by the double standard at work here?

Ajilon’s standard fee for service is 25% of the salary at which their candidates are hired, but in an email to Commissioner Caudle on July 18, their representative, Marilyn Petto, stated that because we are a small town they would be willing to drop their fee to 20%. Commissioner Caudle pointed out that on a salary of $35,000 that works out to $7000, which is significantly higher than the contract prices offered by PRTC.

Mrs. Caudle proceeded to try to explain to her peers on the Board of Commissioners that by the time we finish paying our interim Town Clerk for a few months on top of PTRC’s fees the costs of either service would be about the same. I did some quick math on this and Mrs. Caudle is correct. In fact, her proposal would probably be the more cost effective in the long run.

If we pay an interim town clerk $30 per hour, 25 hours per week for ten weeks, that works out to $7500. Add to that the lowest priced option from PTRC, $2250 and the total comes to $9750. Given those numbers that $7000 price from Ajilon looks a lot more cost effective, and they have an incentive to get this position filled sooner than later. PTRC has no such incentive built into their agreement. We pay nothing to Ajilon unless we hire their candidate; PTRC gets paid no matter what. I don’t often agree with contracting government services to the private sector, but in this case, it’s the more sensible and cost effective option.

During the discussion Commissioner Cheek also tried to assert that Mrs. Caudle’s proposal to use a private sector recruiting firm amounted to hiring a temp agency, proving to anyone with any experience in running a professional office that Grant Cheek knows absolutely nothing about this subject. Professional headhunters, as such recruiters are often referred to, typically charge both applicants and the employers who utilize their services. A temp agency that provides general office staffing doesn’t operate that way, but since that’s the only kind of employment agencies Mr. Cheek is familiar with that’s what he assumed Commissioner Caudle wanted to do.

Throughout the discussion, Mayor Shaw, who has no vote and whose only purpose on that board is to facilitate the meeting, continually interjected his unsolicited opinion into the conversation. One would think that at this point in his career as an elected official Mr. Shaw would know his place by now and keep his mouth shut. If Danny Shaw wants a voice or a vote on our governing board he should have filed to run for a commissioner’s seat rather than another term as mayor. You can’t have it both ways, but that is exactly what Mr. Shaw has tried to do since the day took the gavel from Mayor Spivey.

In the end it became pretty obvious that neither Mr. Cheek nor Mayor Shaw were willing to give Commissioner Caudle’s ideas a fair hearing, but that’s nothing new. The board voted 4-1 to choose the cheapest option in front of them; the $2250 option from PTRC. It will be interesting to see what the total cost of our search for Ramseur’s next clerk/CFO comes to in the end. I’ll keep you posted.